As the novel coronavirus rages across Europe and North America like a conflagration in an oil-slicked forest, Japan’s prayers that the viral bullet wouldn’t pinball back in its direction have gone answered. Yet irrespective of location, the modern world has never needed a greater sense of community or for new collective behavioral routines that benefit the public at large. Paradoxically, the best way to achieve that may be by keeping our distance from one another.
At ground level this means self-isolating, working from home and limiting the amount of time spent in the company of others. At the international level this means forgoing all but essential travel, and in extreme cases, there is outright forbiddance of travel between certain destinations.
Who Can Come to Japan?
The weekend shutdown of Tokyo aside, life in Japan strangely, for the most part, is carrying on as usual, but the list of potential travelers to the island nation is shrinking by the day. Those arriving from China’s Hubei and Zhejiang Provinces, most regions of South Korea, Iran, and 18 European countries will not be allowed to land in Japan with the rest of Europe and the US rumored to follow. The same rule applies to anyone who has visited one of the prohibited regions in the 14 days leading up to their departure.
Enhanced screening and quarantining measures have been extended to those traveling from the rest of China, South Korea, Hong Kong, Macau, Iran, Egypt, the USA and European Schengen Agreement states. Said passengers will be sent to designated facilities for mandatory 14-day quarantines. Visa suspensions have also been introduced for a majority of the above nations’ passport holders.
— U.S. Embassy Tokyo, ACS (@ACSTokyo) March 24, 2020
How Safe is Japan Right Now?
A better question to pose yourself is: Should I go to Japan? Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has thus far declined to declare a state of emergency for Japan, instead warning people to avoid places such as fitness centers, live music venues and other places with poor ventilation where large groups of people cluster and communicate in close contact.
On March 21, the day before the International Olympic Committee announced they will consider postponing the Tokyo Summer Olympics, the US CDC raised their travel notice for Japan to level 3 – recommending that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to Japan.
That being said, Japan’s COVID-19 case data can certainly give cause for optimism. As we approach April, Japan is the least infected developed economy on the planet, with under 2,000 reported cases (as of March 30) in a population of 127 million. (For purposes of comparison, Italy recently reported over 6,500 new cases in one day.) While this arguably increases Japan’s allure, the fact that only 1/6th of its testing capabilities are being utilized suggests the data could be misleading.
Furthermore, there is concern that Japan simply hasn’t hit its COVID-19 spike just yet; if it does, it could be quite potent in a nation where almost 30% of the residents are over 65 years old.
PM Abe updated Japan’s response to #coronavirus. He asked business and citizens for continued vigilance and cooperation. The situation appears to remain steady,but Japan will further implement thorough measures to prevent the spread of infections. #COVID19https://t.co/wHTI4FLxCq pic.twitter.com/FNKk0DtxcK
— MOFA of Japan (@MofaJapan_en) March 22, 2020
I’m in Japan, Where Can I Go?
On March 7, the Foreign Ministry noted 27 nations that have restricted entry of visitors from Japan and a further 63 that were imposing some form of quarantine. The Japanese government has also urged its citizens not to travel to selected countries – the US and most European states – unless absolutely necessary.
When coming back to Japan, on an existing visa, if you’ve spent time in these following countries you’ll be asked to quarantine yourself for 14 days when returning to Japan:
- Ethiopia (Have to quarantine at a hotel at the traveler’s expense)
- New Caledonia
- Northern Macedonia
Advance screening for those who have traveled to any of these countries and will be asked to stay at designated facilities for 14 days:
- Hong Kong
- San Marino
When arriving from these countries to Japan if your temperature exceeds 37 degrees you’ll be told to self-quarantine for 14 days:
The following are banned from entering Japan for the time being (without a visa):
- San Marino
As the information is constantly changing at this time visit here for updated news on the travel bans.
Tales of vaccines and potentially useful treatments are beginning to counteract the constant bombardment of horror stories, but as to when COVID-19 no longer dominates the geopolitical narrative, it probably won’t be soon. So for better or worse, staying within borders for an indeterminate period time may be our only realistic course of action.
For tourist information or assistance in the case of accidents and emergencies, the Japan National Tourism Organization offers a hotline for Japan visitors.
Feature photo: motive56 / Shutterstock.com