Photo/Illutration Prime Minister Fumio Kishida explains his plan to ease border rules for nonresident foreigners at a Feb. 17 news conference. (Wataru Sekita)

Pressed by the ruling coalition and business sectors, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida finally decided to ease entry restrictions against nonresident foreigners.

Kishida said at a Feb. 17 news conference that the number of foreign travelers who can enter Japan from March 1 will be 5,000 a day, up from 3,500.

He said the move was “a gradual step toward finding an exit from the sixth wave” of novel coronavirus infections.

The relaxed entry quota will also cover businesspeople and those headed for technical intern training, meaning that it may take months before all foreign students who want to study here can enter the country.

According to the Immigration Services Agency, about 152,000 foreign students have approved visas, but they have been unable to enter Japan because of the strict restrictions concerning COVID-19.

Still, Akio Mimura, chairman of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, welcomed the planned relaxation of the rules as did officials of universities that have been waiting for foreign students to enter.

Criticism has been raised against the government for allowing Japanese students to travel abroad to study but forbidding entry to foreign students.

Natsuo Yamaguchi, the head of junior coalition partner Komeito, had said that Japan’s image and future would be hurt if it continued to shut out foreign students.

The Asahi Shimbun

Self-quarantine measures will also be eased for arriving passengers.

Although a seven-day self-quarantine period at home or designated lodging facility will be maintained, those who test negative on the third day of the period will no longer have to self-isolate.

The self-quarantine requirement will be lifted completely for those who have received booster shots and are entering from nations not designated as having a high number of COVID-19 cases.

(This article was written by Keishi Nishimura and Kohei Morioka.)