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Coronavirus

Japan and Laos agree to relax coronavirus travel restrictions

Expatriates to be eligible first, with students and business travel on agenda

A Lao Airlines flight from Vientiane is inspected by Chinese customs officials in March at Kunming Changshui International Airport in Yunnan Province.   © Reuters

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan and Laos agreed Sunday to allow expatriates to resume traveling as early as September, provided they stay home for 14 days after entering their respective countries as part of measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The plan was agreed by Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and his Laotian counterpart Saleumxay Kommasith during their talks in Vientiane, according to the Japanese government.

In addition to the reopening of borders for long-term residents, they agreed to speed up coordination through diplomatic channels toward resuming business trips, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said.

Motegi also told him that entry to Japan by Laotian students with Japanese government scholarships will be realized at the earliest opportunity, according to the ministry.

Laos, with a relatively low number of confirmed coronavirus cases, is among the 16 countries and regions with which Japan is discussing ways to ease entry restrictions.

Japan currently bans entries by foreign nationals from 146 countries and regions in principle.

It is Motegi's third stop on a four-nation tour that also includes Papua New Guinea, Cambodia and Myanmar.

In the presence of the two foreign ministers, Japan also pledged to provide grant aid of nearly 2 billion yen ($18 million) to refurbish ageing schools in Laos and 500 million yen to supply buses, a major public transportation method in the country, it said.

Japan is stepping up its involvement in infrastructure development in the countries along the Mekong River as China expands its clout in the region.

Motegi also met with Laotian Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith and discussed issues including those related to North Korea and the South China Sea, where China has built military outposts to strengthen its sweeping territorial claims, according to the ministry.

Motegi will visit Myanmar on Monday for his final stop before returning to Japan the following day.

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