Japan keeps border controls as it prepares for omicron surge
January 12, 2022 10:30 am
Japan will keep its borders closed to most foreign citizens through February.
This as it attempts to accelerate coronavirus booster shots for elderly people and expand hospital capacity to cope with the rapidly spreading omicron variant, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Tuesday.
Japan briefly eased border controls in November after COVID-19 cases rapidly declined, but quickly reinstated a ban on most foreign entrants after the highly transmissible new variant emerged.
Kishida said the stringent border controls have helped slow the variant’s spread and “bought time” to prepare for an imminent surge.
Japan had few cases until late December, but infections have since shot up to thousands a day.
Last week, Kishida placed three prefectures where infections apparently spread from U.S. military bases — Okinawa, Yamaguchi and Hiroshima — under a pre-emergency status in which eateries were requested to shorten service hours.
But the rollout of booster vaccines, which started with medical workers in December, has been slow. As of Friday, only 0.6% of Japan’s population has received a third shot, prompting experts to urge the government to speed up doses for elderly people.