The Japan Times

Japan should end cap on overseas visitors, senior LDP lawmaker says

- ISABEL REYNOLDS AND YASUTAKA TAMURA

Japan should end a policy of capping daily arrivals from overseas, abolish virus testing on entry, and allow a free flow of tourists and businesspe­ople, a senior figure in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party said.

Speaking in an interview Tuesday at his offices in parliament, Hiroshige Seko said the country should wind down some of the toughest COVID-related border restrictio­ns among leading economies. He said travelers who have received three vaccine doses should be allowed entry, but be required to wear masks in line with government advice.

“Japan’s border controls have lost a lot of their significan­ce” because the spread of the infection isn’t leading to hospital overcrowdi­ng, Seko said. “We should abolish them.” He added that he would seek to have the government consider the idea.

His comments came after Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged in a speech in London last week to relax Japan’s virus-related border controls in line with other Group of Seven major democracie­s in June. He later said the opening up would happen gradually — based on the advice of experts and the latest infection figures.

Border easing would be welcomed by Japan’s tourism industry, which has been urging the government to allow in more overseas visitors to take advantage of the weakening yen, which is at its lowest levels in two decades. Until the pandemic, inbound travel was a rare bright spot for the economy as the number of foreign visitors expanded fivefold between 2011 and 2019.

The country maintains a cap of 10,000 overseas arrivals per day. Media reports, including one from the Nikkei newspaper, have said the government is considerin­g a plan to double the figure to 20,000 people.

“Contact among people is important in various ways for business as a whole, not just tourists,” Seko said. He added that a plan to open up would need to be explained to a public that still has strong concerns over the health consequenc­es.

Six months ago, polls showed voters backed Kishida’s ban on new entry by foreign nationals as the omicron variant spread around the world. A survey by JNN over the weekend found 48% of respondent­s were in favor of relaxing border controls in line with Kishida’s plan, while 38% were against the idea.

 ?? BLOOMBERG ?? Hiroshige Seko said the country should wind down some of the toughest COVID-related border restrictio­ns among leading economies.
BLOOMBERG Hiroshige Seko said the country should wind down some of the toughest COVID-related border restrictio­ns among leading economies.

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