Effective Tuesday, November 30, 2021, Prime Minister of Japan Fumio Kishida has declared that its borders are closed to all foreigners in response to the Omicron COVID-19 variant.
Japanese citizens returning to the country from travel will need to quarantine at government-designated facilities. Foreigners holding current resident visas will also be allowed back into the country, as will some diplomatic travelers and humanitarian cases.
Although there have been no Omicron infections reported yet in Japan, the PM said, “We are (taking measure) with a strong sense of crisis, adding, “These are temporary, exceptional measures that we are taking for safety’s sake until there is clearer information about the Omicron variant.”
Japan follows Israel as the only 2 countries to close their borders entirely. On Saturday, Israel said it would ban the entry of all foreigners into the country, making it the first country to shut its borders completely in response to Omicron. Israel Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that the ban, pending government approval, would last 14 days and that the country would use counter-terrorism phone-tracking technology in order to contain the spread of the Omicron variant.
Omicron has been labeled as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO). According to the WHO website, the Omicron variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other variants of concern. The number of cases of Omicron appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa.
Japan’s vaccination rate is the highest among G7 economies, which includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, the US as well as the European Union. COVID-19 infections have fallen significantly since a fifth wave peaked in August.
Preferring to err on the side of caution for Japan’s citizens, Prime Minister Kishida said, “I’m prepared to bear all criticism from those saying the Kishida administration is being too cautious.”