THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
September 7, 2021 at 16:45 JST
Japan’s most powerful business lobby is calling on the government to help revive the economy by waiving a 14-day quarantine period for travelers arriving from overseas if they show proof they are fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.
Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) urged the government Sept. 6 to relax travel regulations once the rates of COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms who die drops significantly.
“It is essential that people who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus spearhead efforts to rebuild society and the economy,” Masakazu Tokura, chairman of Keidanren, said at a news conference in Tokyo.
The proposal, however, fueled fears that any debate on a possible relaxation of entry rules could cause the public to let down its guard as the government moves to again extend its COVID-19 state of emergency. Tokyo and other urban centers are likely to be placed under fresh emergency curbs beyond the current Sept. 12 deadline.
Arriving passengers are required to undergo an antigen test. If they test negative, they are permitted to leave the airport on condition they voluntarily self-isolate for two weeks at home or in a hotel.
Keidaren called for the quarantine requirement to be scrapped for those who have received two doses. It is also asking for the period of self-isolation to be shortened to a maximum 10 days.
Representatives of Keidanren submitted the proposal to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga the same day.
The federation also pressed the government to issue visas for foreign nationals who have received two vaccine jabs and want to visit Japan.
Currently, Japan issues visas only for diplomats and those arriving in the country “under special circumstances.”
Keizai Doyukai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives) proposed in August that efforts to issue “vaccine passports” as official proof of vaccination be moved forward to help society return to pre-pandemic ways of doing things.
Suga’s Liberal Democratic Party backs this idea.
The moves reflect growing frustration among business leaders over their inability to predict when tourism and business travel will resume, even partially, due to a lack of guidance from the Japanese government.
Some countries have moved cautiously to ease travel regulations gradually.
For instance, visitors to Hawaii are not required to undergo self-quarantine if they meet certain requirements, such as having a certificate from a designated medical facility proving their COVID-19 negative status.
Demand for air travel for leisure and business remains limited in Japan, given that travelers are asked to self-isolate for two weeks upon their return.
Airlines are pressing the government to devise specific plans to ease travel restrictions in line with the rising number of vaccinations and other indicators as they struggle to stay afloat due to steep falls in revenue from scaled down international travel.
A senior official with a leading financial institution called on the government to begin discussions on restoring economic activity to pre-pandemic levels once the vaccination rollout reaches a certain level.
(This story was written by Hiroki Ito and Takehiro Tomoda.)
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