Live coronavirus updates and omicron variant news

Japan announced Thursday that it will partially reopen its borders to non-tourists starting in March, amid mounting pressure from the business community and educators over the long-term effects of the prolonged pandemic lockdown in the country.

Japanese omicron cases appear to be peaking, and declining in recent days. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has announced that the country will begin a gradual reopening of all foreigners except for tourists, with a maximum of 5,000 people entering Japan each day. Nikkei Asia reports that there are about 400,000 foreigners on the waiting list to enter the country as of January.

Those entering the country must be tested before and after. Those who test negative after three days will be able to leave quarantine, and those who test positive must finish complete isolation for seven days.

Kishida said that people who have received booster shots will be allowed to enter without quarantine if they come from a country where the spread of oomicron is believed to be under control. He did not specify which countries would be on that list.

This is the first time that Japan’s borders have reopened since November, when the country took similar measures. Back then, those waiting to enter faced bureaucratic delays and backlogs. The New York Times reported that during the three-week period when the borders were partially reopened to non-tourist foreigners, 104 people were processed for entry.

Of Japan’s 47 prefectures, 21 are under a “quasi-state of emergency,” which means bars and restaurants are urged to close earlier than normal business hours. This status will remain in place for most of the 21 provinces until March 6.

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Kishida has hinted at more reopening plans, and the daily cap may be adjusted based on the rate of reinforcement in the country and Omicron’s condition in other countries, he said.

Less than 12 percent of Japanese received booster doses. Kishida, who got his second dose of the vaccine in August, said he hoped for a boost at the start of March.

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