Photo/Illutration Passengers arrive at Narita Airport on Nov. 29, the day before Japan’s ban on global travelers over fears of the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus. (Tatsuya Shimada)

The government will bar foreign residents from re-entering Japan from 10 countries in southern Africa starting on Dec. 2 as a countermeasure against the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus.

Japanese nationals who have visited those same countries--South Africa, Angola, Eswatini, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique and Lesotho--will still be allowed to return but must undergo quarantine measures.

The announcement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno on Dec. 1 followed a ban on new entries by foreigners from those countries after the heavily mutated Omicron variant was first reported in South Africa.

“From the viewpoint of precautions, we will reject re-entry of foreigners with resident status for the time being unless their circumstances are exceptional,” he said.

Although Japan barred new entries of foreigners from around the world on Nov. 30, some travelers can enter Japan as exceptions if they are diplomats, in related fields or are relatives of Japanese residents.

Matsuno indicated the government will apply these rules more strictly by carefully examining each case.

Foreign students who have been granted full state scholarships had also been allowed to enter Japan for public interest purposes.

Matsuno said the door has also been closed on these students.

“We are responding speedily and flexibly based on the spread of infections in other countries,” he said.

Japanese returnees from the 10 nations will continue to be required to quarantine in government-designated facilities for 10 days after their arrival and for four more days at their homes or a hotel.