RIEKO MIKI and KOSUKE TAKEUCHI, Nikkei staff writers
TOKYO — Japan looks to shorten quarantine requirements for vaccinated travelers entering the country from two weeks to 10 days as early as this month, opening the door to easier business travel.
The reduced isolation period would apply only to those who have received vaccines accepted for use in Japan: the Moderna, Pfizer and AstraZeneca shots.
Currently, Japan is refusing new entry by foreigners in principle due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For the time being, the easing of quarantine measures would likely be applied only to Japanese citizens and foreign residents who already have visas for staying in Japan.
The change will be included in a set of measures, due out on Thursday, that are designed to ease coronavirus-related restrictions as Japan’s inoculation campaign makes headway.
Shorter quarantines would give companies more flexibility to send employees on trips abroad, which many are reluctant to do under the current system. The powerful Keidanren business lobby has called for exemptions for vaccinated travelers.
Japan will consider exemptions to a more stringent quarantine protocol applied to travelers from areas where the highly infectious delta variant is prevalent. That protocol requires spending up to 10 of the 14 days of self-isolation at a designated quarantine facility. The list of applicable countries will be worked out going forward.
Another proposal would shorten the isolation time further for travelers who submit itineraries along with a written pledge to take specific steps to curb the spread of the virus. Japan hopes eventually to allow foreign travelers into the country under similar requirements.
The proposals also look to ease restrictions on vaccinated individuals in areas under coronavirus-related emergency decrees, an effort to boost Japanese economic and social activity disrupted by the pandemic.
The government plans to permit crowds at events beyond the current cap of 5,000 in such areas, if proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test is required or steps are taken to facilitate contact tracing.
It also intends to let restaurants serve alcohol if their COVID-19 precautions receive approval from local authorities or other third parties, and Japan is expected to let operating hours be extended beyond the current 8 p.m.
The government looks to loosen these restrictions on a trial basis starting next month, with a full rollout in November, based on its target of administering vaccines to all eligible people who want them by October or November.
Some experts remain wary of scaling back activity limits. Authorities will keep an eye out to ensure that medical systems do not become overstressed again, and will consider clamping down if concerns emerge about dangerous new variants spreading.