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Politics

Japan to lift 14-day quarantine for reentering business travelers

Foreign nationals and Japanese can skip isolation by submitting 'action plans'

Foreign nationals line up in front of a medical checkpoint at Narita International Airport near Tokyo on Sept. 24. Japan is making it easier for business travelers to reenter the country. (Photo by Rie Ishii)

TOKYO -- Japan plans to permit Japanese and foreign national business travelers with residency status to reenter the country without having to isolate for two weeks, Nikkei has learned.

The two-week self-quarantine measure will be waived for returning business travelers who submit an action plan. The travelers will also have to refrain from using public transit.

A final decision on the easier reentry procedure is to come sometime this month.

Japan is easing the isolation restriction to make it easier for employees to travel and to encourage the resumption of economic activity.

The government has been reviewing its entry and exit restrictions. On Oct. 1, it began allowing foreign nationals who plan to stay in Japan for three months or longer to enter the country.

Before the new measure, an average of 2,000 foreign nationals were entering Japan each day.

Japan's three major airports -- Narita International Airport, near Tokyo; Haneda Airport, in Tokyo; and Kansai International Airport, in Osaka -- combined can administer 10,000 PCR tests a day.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has ordered that international traffic be expanded at an accelerated pace so that the testing capacity can be fully utilized.

The new measure exempts Japan residents who leave the country on business from isolating themselves in a hotel or in their home for two weeks upon their return. All Japan residents traveling on business, regardless of their destination, qualify for the exemption.

But for the time being, quotas will be established based on airport testing capacity.

Those who wish to use the eased reentry procedure must submit an action plan to the quarantine office at the Japan airport they use showing where they will be staying and their travel routes for the two weeks after their arrival.

Japan has been moving aggressively to reopen the country to business travelers. It has already agreed with Singapore and South Korea to allow business travelers to come and go without having to quarantine or isolate.

In Europe, the U.K., France and the Netherlands have lifted their self-isolation requirements for Japanese nationals entering their countries.

But Japanese business travelers going elsewhere have to self-quarantine twice -- upon arriving at their destination and again when they return home.

Since the monthlong stints in isolation are hindering businesspeople from taking overseas trips, Japan's government is negotiating with other countries to wave business travelers through quarantines.

Japanese companies are particularly keen to have their employees start traveling to China and Southeast Asia, where many of them have factories. But the direction of the negotiations remains unclear.

The Japanese government is trying to get the talks moving by lifting its own quarantine requirement for some business travelers.

It also plans to make it easier for foreign company executives to travel to Japan. As of now, CEOs and executives have to come to Japan by private jet and can only stay in the country for a short time. The government is now considering allowing these travelers to also arrive aboard chartered jetliners.

Japan will also lift travel advisories for destinations including Singapore, Thailand, South Korea, China, Hong Kong, Macao, Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Taiwan. The advisories are requests for Japanese not to travel to the destinations.

The government is also ready to lift its recommendation to suspend entry from these 12 territories. Some countries and regions have restricted entry to Japanese on the grounds that Japan has banned their citizens. Japan hopes its unilateral moves encourage other countries and territories to reciprocate.

With the coronavirus pandemic hindering international travel, Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways have few passengers to carry into and out of the country.

More travelers will improve the aviation industry's cash crunch, but airlines first must come up with reliable screening systems. This entails ensuring smooth flows of passengers through airports, the maintenance of waiting areas and the adoption of other safety measures.

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