Posted on December 26, 2020
BY KAELAN DEESE – 12/26/20 11:06 AM EST
Japan announced Saturday it would temporarily ban nonresident foreign nationals from entering the country, citing the risk of a new, highly infectious variant of the coronavirus.
The country’s travel ban will take effect on Dec. 28 and run through January, government officials said in a statement, Reuters reported.
The announcement comes as Tokyo reached a record number of new COVID-19 cases this weekend, with health officials recording 949 new cases in the capital city on Saturday.
Officials have confirmed that a more contagious strain of the virus from the United Kingdom has entered the country, with the first detected cases involving passengers arriving from Britain.
Some cases of the new strain were also found in people outside airport checks, local media reported, according to Reuters.
A recent study by British researchers found the new COVID-19 strain is 56 percent more contagious than the previous strain.
According to the latest travel ban, Japanese citizens will be permitted to enter but must verify proof of a negative COVID-19 test 72 hours before departing for the nation and are required to quarantine for two weeks after arrival.
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The country’s prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, who assumed the position in September, has received criticism from some for being too slow to react to rising virus cases in Tokyo and other major metropolitan areas throughout the country.
In response to reports of record cases, Suga urged residents to stay home, avoid New Year’s gatherings and maintain social distancing.
Earlier this month, Suga said he would temporarily halt Japan’s “Go To Travel” subsidy program, an initiative started by the former prime minister to bolster economic activity and promote domestic travel despite the ongoing pandemic.
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