TOKYO: Japan is considering allowing more foreigners into the country for longer stays starting as early as next month, while keeping the COVID-19 entry curbs in place for tourists, the Asahi newspaper reported on Wednesday (Sep 23).
In an effort to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, Japan has adopted some of the strictest travel restrictions in the world, with even permanent residents unable to re-enter the country without prior permission.
The government eased some of those restrictions on students and business people from seven countries in late July.
Under the latest proposed easing, Japan would allow those staying for longer than three months, such as students and medical workers, to enter from any country, the Asahi said, citing multiple government sources.
This limited travel resumption has not resulted in additional virus cases, so the government is now considering letting in eligible visa-holders from all countries, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported, citing unnamed government sources.
Entry would be limited to 1,000 people a day, it said.
Japan has so far managed to keep its coronavirus infections and deaths at low levels compared with hard-hit countries, at a cumulative 79,900 infections and 1,519 deaths.
An immigration agency official could not confirm the reports, saying only that negotiations on business travel resumption were ongoing with several countries.
Government spokesman Katsunobu Kato told reporters that ministers "will study how to resume accepting new visitors while preventing a resurgence of infections".
"We will deal carefully with the issue while keeping an eye on the virus situation," he added.
With the postponed Olympics due to go ahead next year in July, discussions are also ongoing about how to handle the arrival and movements of athletes and spectators.