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Coronavirus

Japan trails in easing travel restrictions for vaccinated

14-day quarantine request risks hampering business recovery

Arriving passengers at Heathrow Airport in London. The U.K. has removed the quarantine requirement for vaccinated travelers from countries not on the no-go list.    © Reuters

TOKYO -- Japan so far has refused to relax its 14-day quarantine request for travelers from overseas even as other major economies move to waive such requirements for the vaccinated.

Following a request from top business lobby Keidanren this month, Tokyo has signaled its intention to gradually ease the restrictions. It is considering shortening the quarantine duration but remains reluctant to waive it altogether.

Delays in easing travel restrictions would prevent business travelers from coming to Japan. Japanese professionals would also balk at going overseas because they face a 14-day quarantine upon returning. Keidanren is concerned about the impact on business.

The government began issuing vaccine passports in late July. The certificate is now accepted by more than 30 countries and regions. But the list does not include the U.S. mainland, a major destination for Japanese business travelers.

Travel restrictions are governed by the principle of reciprocity. If Japan refuses to ease restrictions on foreign travelers, other nations will likely impose similar rules on travelers from Japan.

Other countries have made strides in resuming business travel. The U.K. will allow vaccinated travelers from 17 countries and regions, including Japan, Singapore and Taiwan, to skip a 10-day quarantine beginning next month.

Pre-travel COVID tests will also be waived for travelers from countries where infections are deemed under control. PCR tests after arrival will also be switched to rapid tests.

Similarly, France has waived its seven-day quarantine and testing for those with proof of vaccination. Italy also has waived the quarantine for vaccinated travelers from Japan, the U.S. and other select countries. Singapore also dropped the quarantine requirement for vaccinated travelers from Germany and elsewhere.

The U.S. leaves the matter up to each state, but guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention do not seek a quarantine for people fully vaccinated if they test negative after arrival.

The European Union has been using a digital vaccination passport since July to waive quarantines and testing within the 27 member nations, as well as in Switzerland and Norway.

By easing restrictions for the vaccinated, nations are trying to resume economic activity while containing the pandemic. The airline industry, in particular, has been eager to see such a change.

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