The government, eyeing the full-scale resumption of international travel, plans to set up testing for the novel coronavirus at regional airports handling international flights.
The plan, to be initially launched at Chubu Airport in Aichi Prefecture, Fukuoka Airport in Fukuoka City and New Chitose Airport in Hokkaido, envisions a testing capacity of several hundred travelers entering the country per day at each of the three airports.
Equipment for conducting antigen tests, which uses saliva as a sample, will be installed at the three airports, and areas will be set aside for collecting samples and waiting for test results. The idea is to make the procedure as smooth as possible from the time the traveler arrives in the country and takes the test to the time they leave the airport.
Facilities to accommodate those who test positive will be prepared near the airports as well.
Currently, international flights arrive almost exclusively at Haneda, Narita and Kansai airports. Between July and August, the government accelerated the testing procedure upon entry by switching from PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests to antigen tests. The aim is to raise the combined testing capacity at the three airports to more than 10,000 per day by the end of this month.
The number of international flights will drastically increase when global travel resumes on a full scale, leading the government to realize that it will be necessary for Chubu, Fukuoka and New Chitose airports to have a testing capacity close to Haneda Airport.
Flights have resumed for business-related travelers planning long-term stays from seven countries and regions, including Thailand, Vietnam and Taiwan, on such condition as having proof of testing negative and that they quarantine for 14 days upon entering the country.
The government is negotiating with other countries to ease restrictions on international travelers, mainly for business, while keeping track of the coronavirus situation.