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Japan to reopen borders starting Monday

Businesspeople, students, technical trainees to be allowed in, but not tourists

Narita Airport near Tokyo. About 370,000 foreigners desiring to come to Japan, about 70% of them technical interns and foreign students, will gradually be allowed to enter. 

TOKYO -- The Japanese government announced on Friday that it will reopen its borders for business people and students, starting on Monday, although restrictions on overseas tourist arrivals will remain in place for now.

The country will lift the entry ban for business people, students and technical trainees. For business people who are fully vaccinated, the mandatory self-isolation period will be cut to a minimum three days.

As many as 370,000 people are waiting to enter the country. They have already been issued entry visas, but have been barred from entering the country. Of the total, 150,000 are students and 110,000 are technical trainees.

Once the restrictions are lifted, these people will be allowed in gradually. The government expects the number of business people traveling to Japan to increase as a result of the new measures.

The easing measures are conditional upon the receiving organizations taking steps to make sure the visitors follow the protocol for infection prevention. The organizations include businesses and universities.

They are required to submit implementation plans to relevant regulators, such as the industry, education or farm ministries.

Currently even those who have been vaccinated are required to stay at home for 10 days after entering Japan. Shortening the period to three days is expected to boost business activity.

In January, the government tightened restrictions on entry into Japan in response to the appearance of COVID-19 variants. It banned all new arrivals, other than those with "special circumstances."

Tourists are not covered under the relaxed rules. The government will assess the effectiveness of the measures within the year and consider whether to expand the scope of the relaxation in stages, while monitoring the status of the outbreak.

Toshihiro Nagahama, chief economist at the Dai-ichi Life Research Institute, estimates that the easing will boost gross domestic product by about 830 billion yen ($7.3 billion) per year, spurred by more people entering Japan and spending.

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiji Kihara said at a news conference on Friday, "If the situation worsens, such as with the spread of a new variant, we will take swift action." He added that the government will continue to give "positive consideration" to the possibility of further easing.

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