Coronavirus in Japan UPDATE

Japan lifts the state of emergency in all remaining areas.

According to WHO as of the 20th of July in Japan there have been confirmed 25.458 cases that appeared to be tested positive to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pneumonia.

As of May most of the countries are trying to get into the “new normal”, some travel restrictions are being lifted, many of the small and larger businesses are getting ready to open their doors, and residents are no longer confined in their homes. In recent weeks Japan has managed to lower the cases of new infections as well as daily death rates. Japanese are still practicing social distancing in fears of the second infection wave. Some areas as Tokyo and Hokkaido have ended the emergency state allowing their citizens to continue their lives in a more relaxed manner.

New measures by the Government of Japan

The last week of May 2020 has seen some positive turns, the number of new infections has lowered and the Japanese see fewer and fewer daily deaths. Although Japanese hospitals are finally able to take a breath after being overcrowded for a couple of months the fight is not over just yet. The Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has announced that Japan is finally leaving the state of emergency behind in order to restart the economy and lives of its citizens.

Japan has been in a state of emergency since April, although the restrictions have been lifted Japan is ready just in case the infections spike again. Shinzo Abe has said that instead of keeping Japanese citizens confined in their homes and shutting down local businesses they are trying to find a new way to re-open hospitality sectors and other companies by implementing new safety measures and letting people start socializing while practicing social distancing. As of May, it is mandatory to wear face masks, maintain distance, and if possible to work from home as long a possible to reduce the number of travelers in public transportation.

New travel restrictions

With the summer season approaching many people are looking for travel opportunities, although this year and in the future traveling will look completely different. While Japan is not sharing the actual data of the infections and active cases, travelers must judge the situation themselves and decide whether or not to travel to Japan this year. As of yet, nationals from over 100 countries are not allowed to enter Japan and the Japanese government is not sure when these restrictions will be lifted. The Japanese government has said that the borders will remain closed in June and those who will decide to travel later will have to undergo a 14-day self-quarantine.

Japan is still actively fighting the virus outbreak due to this it is impossible to know when the borders will be open for tourism purposes. Depending on the situation in other countries Japan will gradually allow other citizens to enter Japan. It has been planned that Japan will start discussions with Australia, New Zealand and Vietnam as they share economic ties and these countries might open their borders to each other for tourism purposes.

Currently safety measures

Many other countries are praising the Japanese way of fighting the COVID-19 infections, but when looking at the ways that Japan has managed to do it it is hard to achieve the same for other countries as these steps wouldn’t work anywhere else. During the state of emergency, the Japanese health ministry instead of gradually implementing social distancing rules as well as travel restrictions demanded the Japanese to adapt to a new lifestyle completely. While the number of new infections has been stabilized the measures taken to achieve this have been irrational and inconsiderate. The shortage of tests and rapid change of social distancing plans left many people confused. While Japan has seen some positive changes unfortunately residents are criticizing the way the government has communicated during the state of alarm and giving false data or no data at all. As the number of infections and other important data was not shared with the public, it was difficult to create further plans on lifting these measures while trying to get back to a new lifestyle.

New era of tourism

The Japanese government is preparing an initiative that will aim to attract tourists to spend their vacation in Japan rather than going abroad, this way the country hopes to raise the tourism sector from the ashes. The Go To Travel initiative should come into effect in few months, the project is going to subsidize vacation by up to 20,000 yen (185$) per person, per stay in the form of vouchers and discounts that can be spent in local restaurants, shops, hotels and etc.

Once the Coronavirus travel restrictions are lifted, which is expected to happen in late July, the program will be applied to tourists who will book their stay through Japanese travel agencies or directly with hotels. The initiative will mostly focus on domestic visitors rather than international tourists. The subsidies will not be applied to cover holiday expenses of foreign visitors. Due to a significant drop in coronavirus cases, Japan lifted the state of emergency in Hyogo, Kyoto, and Osaka prefectures on May 21st. Some restrictions are going to be gradually eased in the upcoming weeks, restaurants will be allowed to stay open until 10 pm, some public places such as museums will be allowed to reopen. Moreover, the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics were postponed until summer 2021. Nevertheless, it will be still be named as Tokyo 2020, despite the new dates.