Japan will ask foreign tourists to wear masks and take out insurance

The government said on Tuesday it would ask foreign tourists to wear masks and take out insurance to cover medical expenses in case they contract COVID-19 as Japan gradually resumes receiving visitors later this week.

The Ministry of Tourism has drawn up guidelines for travel agencies and hotels ahead of Friday’s resumption of tourism arrivals. Initially, entry will be limited to excursions from the 98 lowest-risk countries and regions, including the US, UK, China, South Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand.

“Understanding the guidelines and following them will lead to a smooth resumption of inbound tourism and its expansion,” Tetsuo Saito, Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, told a press conference.

Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism Tetsuo Saito holds a press conference in Tokyo on June 7, 2022 (Kyodo)

Under the guidelines, travel agencies will obtain the consent of tour participants to comply with the measures, explaining when selling or booking tours that they will not be penalized for non-compliance, but may not be able to take part in the tours.

The guidelines also say that travel agencies will establish travel itineraries to avoid crowded areas and select properties that carefully implement anti-virus measures, as well as collect information on multilingual medical facilities and isolation hotels.

While in Japan, the agencies will transport tour participants who are diagnosed with the novel coronavirus to medical facilities and support them until they leave the country. They will also ask participants to notify them if they become infected with the novel coronavirus within a week of returning home.

Agencies will keep records of excursions, including places they have visited and places they have sat on public transport, so that if participants are found to be infected, they can quickly identify close contacts who need to be isolated.

Those without close contacts will be able to continue their tour.

Ahead of the resumption of tourism travel, Japan has held test tours for arrivals from the US, Australia, Singapore and Thailand. The Thai band’s tour was put on hold after a member tested positive for the virus.

The country is gradually loosening restrictions on the entry of foreign visitors in a bid to match other G7 countries after being criticized at home and abroad for tight border controls.

But the country will likely take some time to reopen its borders to individual tourists as the government worries about a potential resurgence of infections.

Japan on Wednesday doubled its limit on the number of arrivals per day to 20,000 and allowed the majority to opt out of COVID-19 tests and periods of quarantine. Participants of the upcoming excursions will be included in the arrival quota of 20,000 people per day.

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