Tokyo banned the entry of non-Japanese people, including students and family members, in November in response to Omicron.
Japan will maintain its strict entry restrictions, which it put in place to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, until the end of February, its prime minister said Tuesday, although some exceptions for humanitarian issues could be considered.
When the Omicron variant first launched late last year, the country introduced some of the strictest border controls in the world and banned all new entries from non-Japanese people, including students and foreign family members of Japanese people or permanent residents, unless otherwise noted exceptional circumstances.
The rules, which in some cases have separated families, have sparked protests and a petition for change. According to media reports, the government is considering relaxing some of the rules in exceptional cases on Tuesday.
“Thanks to the strictest border rules in the G7 countries, we have been able to keep the spread of Omicron to a minimum and give ourselves time to prepare to deal with domestic infections,” Kishida told reporters.
“We will keep the current framework for the time being until the end of February, but we will take necessary measures for humanitarian and national interests.”
Kishida added that while much is unknown about Omicron, the risk of serious cases appears to be lower. Still, he said the country will start vaccinating children under the age of 12 against the coronavirus.
Entry into Japan is currently restricted to nationals and permanent residents, but even they are subject to strict testing and quarantine rules.
A surge in new COVID-19 cases in many parts of the country to levels unheard of since September prompted the government to reinstate emergency restrictions over the weekend in three parts of the country that host United States military bases.
The U.S. agreed over the weekend to impose stricter COVID-19 measures on U.S. military bases in Japan amid concerns that base outbreaks have fueled infections in local communities. The US military has moved personnel in and out under a separate test and quarantine regime.
This post first appeared on Aljazeera.com