In response to Omicron, Tokyo banned entry to non-Japanese, including students and family members, in November.
Japan will maintain strict entry restrictions it has imposed to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus Omicron until the end of February, the prime minister said on Tuesday, although some exceptions for humanitarian concerns may be considered.
When the Omicron variant emerged late last year, the country imposed some of the strictest border controls in the world, barring all new arrivals from non-Japanese, including students and foreign family members of Japanese or permanent residents, except in exceptional circumstances.
These rules, in some cases, Keeping families apart sparks protests and petition for change, a media report on Tuesday said the government was considering relaxing some rules in exceptional circumstances.
“Thanks to the strictest border rules in the G7 countries, we were able to keep the spread of Omicron to a minimum, giving us time to prepare for domestic infections,” Kishida told reporters.
“We will temporarily maintain the current framework of measures until the end of February, while taking necessary measures from a humanitarian and national interest perspective.”
Kishida added that while there are still many unknowns about Omicron, the risk of severe cases appears to be low. However, he said the country will start vaccinating children under the age of 12 against the coronavirus.
Entry into Japan is currently limited to citizens and permanent residents, but even they face strict testing and quarantine rules.
New COVID-19 cases in many parts of the country surged to the highest level since September, prompting the government to reimpose emergency restrictions over the weekend in three areas of the country that have U.S. military bases.
The U.S. over the weekend agreed to impose stricter COVID-19 measures at U.S. military bases in Japan amid concerns that outbreaks at the bases could exacerbate infections in local communities. The U.S. military has moved staff in and out under a separate testing and isolation regime.