Japanese authorities have expanded a state of emergency order to include Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Aichi, Gifu, Tochigi, and Fukuoka prefectures through Feb. 7 amid ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) activity. A state of emergency is already in effect for metropolitan Tokyo, including Saitama, Kanagawa, and Chiba prefectures, through Feb. 7. Under the targeted measures, local governments have requested that restaurants and drinking establishments stop serving alcohol from 1900 and close at 2000 daily. Authorities will also ask residents to remain at home after 2000, encourage businesses to allow telecommuting for 70 percent of employees, and reduce capacity at sporting and entertainment venues to 50 percent up to a cap of 5,000 people. Officials in Kumamoto Prefecture have also announced a local state of emergency and will probably follow measures similar to the central government order. The state of emergency remains unenforceable under Japanese law, but compliance with previous orders has generally been high; officials will publicly list establishments that do not abide by the requests and provide increased subsidies for businesses that follow the recommendation.
In other areas of Japan, authorities are limiting sporting and entertainment venues to 50-percent capacity up to a maximum of 10,000 people. Some smaller venues and theaters can operate at full capacity. Business activity is mainly unaffected nationwide, but companies must adhere to social distancing directives. Some organizations have reduced capacity at facilities, established temperature checks, or encouraged telecommuting for employees.
Sporadic rail and flight disruptions remain possible nationwide amid generally reduced demand, especially on routes to and from areas under state of emergency orders. Physical distancing requirements are in place on most long-distance transport services. Flights from South Korea and China are only authorized to land at Narita International Airport (NRT) and Kansai International Airport (KIX). Transit flights for foreign nationals are only allowed through NRT. Authorities continue to suspend international passenger ferry services.
Travel RestrictionsThe government continues to ban most foreign nationals from entering the country due to a new COVID-19 variant. Only Japanese citizens and resident foreign nationals can enter the country; officials will permit entry for other foreigners under special circumstances. Authorities will also prohibit business travel from 11 locations, including Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Taiwan, mainland China, Singapore, Brunei, and South Korea, from Jan. 14. The government is no longer honoring visas issued since Oct. 1. Officials require returning citizens and residents to present a negative COVID-19 test result obtained within 72 hours of departure. Inbound passengers with a negative test result can self-quarantine for 14 days, while passengers without test documentation must quarantine at designated locations.
Follow all official instructions. Postpone travel if affected by an entry ban. Allow additional time for immigration and health screenings. Consider delaying travel if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Confirm international flight reservations. Closely monitor national travel advisories, as additional restrictions to and from Japan are likely. Consider telecommuting options for staff. Make allowances for likely increased employee absenteeism and related business disruptions.
Exercise basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.
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