Photo/Illutration The quarantine section at Narita Airport asks incoming travelers on Nov. 30 if they have stayed in certain countries in recent days. (Tatsuya Shimada)

The health ministry on Dec. 10 started allowing travelers from areas where the Omicron variant is not spreading to self-quarantine at their homes or at accommodation facilities for the full 14-day period.

Previously, such arrivals were required to stay at government-designated facilities for the first three to six days after landing in Japan, followed by eight to 11 days at home or accommodation facilities.

The policy was changed because stricter border rules to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant is leading to a shortage of hotel rooms and other facilities that can be secured by the government as quarantine places for travelers.

The new rule applies to people coming from 20 countries and regions, including Argentina, Kenya and Peru. Arrivals from those areas previously had to quarantine at government-designated facilities over concerns about other COVID-19 variants, such as the Delta and Lambda strains.

The government is now more focused on preventing the Omicron variant from entering and spreading in Japan.

It has maintained its policy of requiring arrivals from places where the Omicron variant is spreading to quarantine at government-designated facilities for their first 10 days in Japan.

The government expanded the list of countries and regions where departing travelers must quarantine at government-designated facilities upon arrival in Japan as a measure to stop the Omicron variant from entering Japan.

However, these measures could cause a further shortage of quarantine accommodation facilities.

The health ministry initially used the level of spread of COVID-19 variants as a guide to decide which places should be put on that list.

However, on Dec. 4, the ministry started allowing travelers from 17 countries and regions on the list to quarantine at their homes or other accommodations for the 14-day period on condition that they were fully vaccinated.

Health minister Shigeyuki Goto told a Dec. 10 news conference that the government has secured more than 10,000 hotel rooms for incoming travelers.

He said the government plans to secure additional quarantine rooms by temporarily renting local government facilities where COVID-19 patients have recuperated or by using ministries’ training facilities.