*This Japan coronavirus update will post the latest report every week.
*Data lifted from the latest Wikipedia report and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
The risk of COVID-19 in Japan is still high. Based on the numbers, there is still active transmission of the virus, particularly in high-density cities such as Tokyo, Okinawa, Fukuoka, Osaka, Kanagawa, Chiba, Saitama, and Hyogo. It is also worth noting that despite the absence of forced lockdowns in the country, Japan has a relatively low death rate. The COVID-19 spreads through respiratory droplets and it is understandable why some countries have enforced lockdowns and stay-at-home orders.
In Japan, no such orders were ever implemented even during the announcement of the national state of emergency. However, the government merely requested people to refrain from going out and restaurants to close in the meantime. This soft approach was enough to control the spread of the virus. Japanese people practiced avoiding the three Cs—Closed spaces with poor ventilation, Crowded public spaces, and Close-contact settings.
While such measures have been successful in limiting the spread of the virus, there is still a risk of contracting the disease.
As such, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends travellers to postpone any nonessential travel plans. At present, only travels related to humanitarian aid work, medical or family emergencies are allowed.
Foreigners staying in Japan and testing positive for COVID-19 may be isolated or barred from returning to their home country unless they have fully recovered from the disease. Depending on your country, you may be required to quarantine upon arrival.
As mentioned Japan faced a resurgence of coronavirus cases from July to August. While cases are steadily decreasing, it is still unclear when Japan will reopen for foreign travellers. However, many are optimistic that partial reopening is possible in the latter part of the year.
To date, most of the resurgence of cases are concentrated in Tokyo and Osaka. So for foreign travellers already in the country, their travel inside Japan is a go. They can visit tourist spots for as long as they are practicing minimum health safety standards as mandated by health agencies.
For those planning to go to Japan, the country may begin to accept business travellers coming from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, and South Korea first. Once travel restrictions have eased out, the country will soon accept regular tourists.
For those allowed to travel to Japan (citizens and permanent residents), here are the cities that provide direct flights to Japan. Most of these flights are accepted in Tokyo (Haneda or Narita). There are a number of Asian flights that may also be directed to Kansai at Osaka and Kyoto airports. Note that these flights are not daily. Watch out for the Japan coronavirus update every Monday to see if there will be changes in the list of available flights.
Yes, quarantine is necessary. The Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare asks all of the passengers arriving via international flights to isolate for at least 14 days upon entry even if their health condition does not indicate that they may be infected with the coronavirus.
Upon arrival, foreign travellers cannot use public transportation. Please arrange private airport transfers. You may also need to book a place where you can isolate. A quarantine director will register your chosen isolation facility and your airport transfer.
When it comes to testing, the Japanese government requires entrants to undergo antibody testing along with a regular health condition check within 14 days of their entry.
If you are among those who can travel to Japan, you may notice that most of the staff are wearing masks. They will also need to check your temperature prior to check-in and get your information. Note that the hotels will have an ample supply of hand sanitizers or alcohols throughout the premises. They will also noticeably practice social distancing to minimize contact and exposure.
If you happen to be in Japan during the pandemic, here are some useful tips to ensure your safety as you explore the country:
If you don’t have a mask, you may be exposing yourself or others to the virus. For this reason, some establishments may refuse you entry if you are not wearing one. If you need to buy a mask, they are widely available at drug stores, grocery stores, convenience outlets, and department stores. They are also available from the airport. If you cannot find one, you can ask by saying: “masuku arimasu-ka?” (Do you have masks?). Better yet, you can show them this:
マスクを探しています。 and they will understand.
If you are going to roam around, make sure that you practice social distancing. If you need to take a train, the best way to maintain a good distance is by taking the green cars, particularly on the shinkansen.
If you plan to visit popular destinations, do so either early morning or late afternoon to ensure that there will be fewer people that you may need to interact with. It would also be wiser to explore some of the not-so-popular but equally beautiful destinations in Japan.
While eating in a restaurant, everyone must also observe the necessary precautions. A number of Japanese restaurants are offering private rooms, or “koshitsu.” If you need help locating them, you can ask your hotel concierge to reserve one for you.
Note: This Japan coronavirus update was first published in October 2020 and has been updated to include the latest developments.