Travel to Japan during Covid-19: What you need to know before you go

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Editor’s Note — Coronavirus cases remain high across the globe. Health officials caution that travel increases your chances of getting and spreading the virus. Staying home is the best way to stem transmission. Below is information on what to know if you still plan to travel, last updated on December 23.

(CNN) — If you’re planning to travel to Japan, here’s what you’ll need to know and expect if you want to visit during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The basics

Japan was initially lauded for containing the virus during the first wave but has since seen several surges in cases.

Following the identification of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus, Japan shut its borders to all foreigners except those visiting the country on humanitarian grounds, effective November 30.

Foreign residents of Japan, even if they have residency, who travel to Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia or Zimbabwe will not be allowed to re-enter the country.

Currently there are no exceptions for students or for people visiting family members. The government will revisit these rules if and when the new variant is contained.

What’s on offer

A heady mix of the cutting edge and deeply traditional, Japan remains a major draw for travelers from all over the globe. Whether participating in a traditional tea ceremony in Kyoto, scouring Tokyo’s Akihabara district for tech bargains or soaking in a hot onsen in the forests of Tohoku, this is a country that leaves its mark on all who visit.

Who can go

Japan has some of the most stringent travel restrictions in the world.

Consult MOFA for the latest information.

What are the restrictions?

Those traveling under Japan’s revised business travel rules will need to provide proof of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure, signed and stamped by the laboratory where it was taken. While they will not need to self-isolate, they will need to provide details of their movements for the following two weeks and not use public transport.

Under these states and quasi-states, prefecture governments were allowed to make restrictions about things like crowd sizes and restaurant hours. With those designations lifted, it is possible for venues like bars, malls and cinemas to reopen.

What’s the Covid situation?

As of December 23, Japan had reported 1,729,357 confirmed cases of the virus and 18,378 deaths. These numbers don’t include any positive cases connected to the Olympics or Paralympics. More than 77% of the population is fully vaccinated.

Japan confirmed its first case of the Omicron variant on December 22. The National Institute of Infectious Diseases confirmed that the infected patient was a Japanese man in his 30s returning from Namibia.

Travelers returning to Japan from countries with confirmed Omicron cases — which include the United States — will be required to quarantine for 7-10 days upon arrival.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato confirmed to local media that his team is exploring options for “vaccine passports.” Business travelers would be prioritized for these at first.

What can visitors expect?

While much of Japan remains open for business, cities are far quieter than usual and the government has the right to request the closure of businesses in areas of high transmission. Masks must be worn in public.

Useful links

Our latest coverage

Osaka is now home to the world’s first — and so far only — Super Nintendo World, where visitors can put on virtual reality glasses and play a real-life version of Mario Kart.

Joe Minihane, Julia Buckley and Lilit Marcus contributed to this story

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