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Coronavirus

Japan business lobby wants quarantine exemption for the vaccinated

Keidanren says blanket travel restriction hinders economic recovery

Japan's main airports have been eerily quiet since the government began requiring all international travelers to quarantine for 14 days after landing in the country.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- The Japan Business Federation on Monday put forward a set of proposals aimed at normalizing the nation's economic activity now that vaccinations have made steady progress.

One of the group's proposals is to exempt fully vaccinated travelers from Japan's mandatory 14-day quarantine upon entry. If the proposal is adopted, it could increase travel to Japan and help boost economic activity.

The move by Japan's leading business lobby comes as the use of vaccine passports gains currency overseas. In some countries, people need to show a vaccination certificate to enter restaurants or use public transit. Now the business community wants the government to review its blanket restrictions in response to the pandemic, including a virtual ban on entry by foreign nationals.

Masakazu Tokura, the business lobby's chief, handed the proposals to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who was described as expressing openness to the idea.

"We will take this step by step," Suga said.

Tokura, chairman of Sumitomo Chemical, told reporters that vaccination certificates can be an effective tool in reviving the economy.

The head of the Japan Business Federation, Masakazu Tokura, speaks with reporters at the prime minister's office on Sept. 6 after presenting recommendations on restarting travel. (Photo by Uichiro Kasai)

The business lobby, also known as Keidanren, also called for reducing the quarantine period for unvaccinated travelers to no more than 10 days from 14, and for allowing coronavirus antibody test kits to be sold at drugstores.

Keidanren is not alone in asking the government to loosen its restrictions. On Friday, the government's own health experts proposed making it easier for fully vaccinated people or those who test negative to travel within the country.

Tight COVID controls have kept people from traveling since early in 2020. The number of visitors to Japan dropped 87%, to 4.11 million, that year, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.

Worldwide, tourist traffic in the first five months of 2021 remained 85% lower than 2019 levels, according to the World Tourism Organization.

Research has shown that vaccinations are effective in reducing the risk of death or severe cases of COVID-19.

Japan has started issuing vaccination certificates to people traveling overseas, but the certificates are not used domestically, which partly explains why Japan's economic recovery has been slower than those in the U.S. and Europe.

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