No More Border Closure in Japan After Covid Downgrade on May 8, 2023
End of Covid Border Control Brought Forward to April 29
Last January, Katsunobu Kato the Japanese Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare announced the government was thinking of reconsidering its pandemic measures. The next easing on the anti-Covid measures in Japan has been confirmed on Friday March 10, with an implementation first announced for May 8, 2023, but finally starting from Saturday April 29, 2023.
Some excellent news for international visitors, who were allowed in Japan for sightseeing since October 11, 2022, but with specific entry procedures.
🦠 Sanitary rules lifted after downgrade
In the wake of South Korea since January 30, and thanks to a favorable and rather stable epidemic context, Japan downgraded the new Coronavirus 🦠 from Class II to Class V, that is to say at a common infectious disease level such as the seasonal flu, incurring fewer risks for the population.
This new categorization also implies that Covid-19 cannot be used anymore as a reason to:
- Declare a state of emergency (the local version of the lock-down);
- Order isolation of contact cases for 5 days and patients for 7 days;
- Implement specific sanitary measures at Japan’s borders (such as quarantine); or,
- Close the borders to international visitors.
The last restrictions are gradually being phased out to shift back to a pre-Covid situation. The only event that could jeopardize the return to normal is the advent of a major new variant.
This announcement is made at the same time as the relaxing of face mask 😷 wearing guidelines in effect from March 13. As a matter of fact, indoor mask wearing mandates are lifted and the decision to cover nose and mouth is now left to each individual’s judgment, by assessing how crowded is the place and according to one’s health condition. In fact, and probably at least until Covid is actually downgraded to a common disease status, the Japanese are still wearing a face cover indoor and outdoor.
✈️ End of pandemic border restrictions
The Japanese government has therefore decided to wait until the end of the 1st touristic spring 🌸 after Covid, but to anticipate the national holidays of the Golden Week and the G7 summit at the end of May in Hiroshima to implement these long-awaited measures.
Thus, from Saturday April 29, 2023 on, the current borders restrictions will be lifted for all international visitors arriving in Japan (except travelers coming from China), namely:
- End of the 3 vaccine doses to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus;
- End of the mandatory negative PCR Test for travelers who are not fully vaccinated.
Travelers entering Japan will therefore only be required to have a valid passport and abide to the usual custom and immigration procedures to enter the archipelago. A major change that is likely going to impact the Visit Japan Web app, currently used by travelers to register their health status before arriving in Japan.
For comparison purpose, in early April the United States’ anti-COVID measures to enter American territory by air have been extended until 2023, May 11 : the only travelers allowed must be fully vaccinated and their vaccine status controlled before boarding the plane ✈️.
🏥 Support to public healthcare
Most of the announcements detailed by M. Kato on March 10 relate to the care of Covid patients in the future. Summer 2022’s uptick of Omicron variant contamination has shed a light on some major weaknesses of the Japanese healthcare system, especially a lack of cohesion and solidarity between the medical facilities, most of them being private hospitals. Ambulances were sometimes made to wait for hours in the street before their patients could be accepted in a designated hospital willing to take them in.
In an effort to provide better access to treatment, the government has decided that all healthcare professionals and hospitals in the country must admit and look after Covid patients. In theory, from May 8, a Covid contact-case or patient should not be refused anymore; but it remains to be seen how this measure will actually be implemented.
Other significant change: as the Covid-19 health risks are considered lower, a larger part of the medical bills will be left to the patients. A "financial shield" set for a few months in 2023 is limiting the treatment costs to the same amount as the flu’s. Consequently, the patient has to pay for a Covid detection test, but the treatment cost would be subsidized. The hospital fees will be calculated according to the symptoms’ severity and the patient’s age; patients 75 years and older will benefit from a larger coverage.
Hopefully this article is the last pertaining to Covid-19 and its impacts on travel to Japan on Kanpai. A return to normality combined with individual awareness seems to be the best development, encompassing both tolerance and responsibility. It is about time to go (back) to Japan!