02 Dec 2021, 08:59

Japan eases blanket ban on new incoming flight bookings

TOKYO, Dec 2, 2021 (BSS/AFP) - Japan has softened its suspension of all new
incoming flight bookings to make it easier for citizens to return, the
government said Thursday, a day after it announced the move prompted by
worries about the Omicron coronavirus variant.

  The transport ministry abruptly said Wednesday it was asking airlines to
stop taking all new incoming flight reservations for a month, in a surprise
move affecting citizens and foreign residents.

  But on Thursday, government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno said it would be

  "This request caused confusion among those affected and so the prime
minister instructed the transport ministry to examine the issue and consider
the needs of Japanese citizens hoping to return home," he told reporters.

  As a result, the ministry "asked airlines to cancel the blanket suspension
of new reservations for international flights to accommodate Japanese hoping
to return home", he added.

  Japan has had tight border restrictions throughout the Covid-19 pandemic,
barring almost all foreign arrivals.

  It had begun to ease those rules slightly last month to allow some students
and business travellers entry, but reversed that decision after the emergence
of the Omicron variant.

  It has also barred all non-citizens from entering the country if they are
coming from 10 southern African countries.

  All arrivals in Japan must quarantine for 14 days at home, with people
coming from dozens of locations required to spend between three and 10 days
of that two-week period in designated facilities.

  After a summer surge in cases, Japan is registering only double-digit
infections nationwide most days, and has logged around 18,360 deaths during
the pandemic.

  Around 77 percent of the country's population is now fully vaccinated, and
booster shots began rolling out on Wednesday for people who received their
second dose at least eight months ago.


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