Tokyo, Feb. 4 (Jiji Press)–The Japanese government is considering easing restrictions on outings by returnees from China’s Hubei Province, from which the outbreak of pneumonia blamed on a new strain of coronavirus started to spread, since the virus’ incubation period may be shorter than initially thought.
The government may ask Japanese who returned home from the Hubei capital of Wuhan, the epicenter of the viral outbreak, and other parts of the province to refrain from going out for a shorter period, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference Tuesday.
Initially, the government estimated the new coronavirus’ incubation period at around 14 days, based on past viral epidemic cases, such as the severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, outbreak in China in 2002-2003, and asked returnees from Hubei not to go out for about two weeks.
At a separate press conference on Tuesday, health minister Katsunobu Kato said, “We are considering shortening the period for the returnees to refrain from going out while hearing opinions from experts, as we have been informed by the World Health Organization that the incubation period could be two to 10 days.”
A total of 565 people came back to Japan from Hubei on three government-chartered flights over three days through Friday, and many of them are now staying at facilities designated by the government.
If the period for not going out is cut to 10 days, people who returned to Japan on Wednesday last week on the first of the three chartered flights would be allowed to go out or return to their homes from Saturday this week.
The government may also relax its coronavirus-related restrictions on entry to Japan by foreign nationals who have been to Hubei.
On Saturday, the government started to refuse in principle entry by foreigners with records of being in the province within 14 days of their applications to enter Japan, regardless of whether or not they are infected with the new coronavirus.
The period will also be reviewed in line with the change in the estimated incubation period of the virus, informed sources said.
Under the current system, 11 foreigners have been denied entry to Japan as of Tuesday, with three of them voluntarily withdrawing their entry applications, the Immigration Services Agency said.