Tourists to Japan must use face masks and have Covid-19 medical insurance

TOKYO: Japan will ask foreign tourists to wear face masks and have insurance that will cover Covid-19 medical expenses as the nation prepares to accept visitors in stages starting this Friday.

Authorities said entry will initially be restricted to guided tours from 98 countries and regions with the lowest risk of infection, including those from the United States, United Kingdom, China, South Korea, Indonesia and Thailand.

Kyodo News reports Tourism Minister Tetsuo Saito saying that understanding of the guidelines and compliance will lead to the smooth resumption of inbound tourism and its expansion.

Under the guidelines, travel agencies need to get tour participants to comply with the measures by explaining to them during sales or reservation of tours.

The tourists will not be penalised for failing to comply but may not be able to take part in the tours.

The guidelines require travel agencies to have tour routes that avoid crowded areas and they need to select facilities that have thoroughly implemented antivirus measures.

They must also gather information on multilingual medical institutions and hotels for isolation, in the event of Covid-19 infection.

The tour agencies will be required to transport infected tourists to medical institutions and support them until they leave the country.

The agencies also need to inform all tourists that they notify them if they are found infected with Covid-19 within a week of leaving the country.

The guidelines require the agencies to keep records of the tours, including places they visited and where they sat in public transportation, so that close contacts can be identified fast and isolated, if anyone is found to be infected.

Those who are not close contacts will be able to continue their tour.

The reopening of Japan's border to tourists comes after authorities recently carried out test tours for inbound travelers from the United States, Australia, Singapore and Thailand.

The Thai group's tour was suspended after a participant tested positive for the coronavirus.

The easing of entry rules is another step taken by Japan to match other Group of Seven nations after coming under heavy criticisms at home and abroad for its tough border controls.

However, despite the easing, it is likely to take some time for the country to reopen its borders to individual tourists as concerns remain within the government over the potential resurgence of infections.

Japan has also doubled its limit on daily arrivals to 20,000 and does not require most to take Covid-19 tests or into quarantine. The guided tour participants will be included in the daily arrival quota.

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