Japan is preparing to allow tourists to enter the country for the first time since the pandemic broke out two years ago, but strict rules remain in place.
Tourists must be part of organised tour groups and must wear masks and take out additional health insurance, once restrictions ease on Friday, according to the guidelines published by the Tourism Ministry on Tuesday.
“They must be accompanied by a tour guide at all times from the point of entry to the country to their departure.
“Tourists will also have to take a PCR test for COVID-19 before entering the country.’’
Earlier, tourists from 98 countries were allowed to travel to Japan.
Travel agencies were to ensure tourists agreed to wear masks and took out insurance to cover any COVID-related medical expenses.
Visitors must also agree to avoid enclosed spaces and crowded places and to maintain social distancing.
The ministry’s guidelines also required travel agencies to ensure tour guides kept accurate records of their itineraries and of participants’ contacts.
Those who did not adhere to the requirements risked having their group tour terminated.
The guidelines were based on the experience of test tours carried out with tourists from the U.S., Thailand, Singapore and Australia.
When one person among a group of four from Thailand caught COVID-19, their tour was cancelled.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida sought to avoid a rush of tourists traveling to the country and a surge of infections ahead of the July elections for the upper house of parliament.
The rules were likely to be eased to allow individual tourists to enter Japan after that date.
Tourism remained an important economic sector for Japan, which expected up to 40 million foreign visitors in 2020.
However, the country shut its borders completely to foreign tourists in April 2020.
Earlier this month, Japan raised the upper limit for entries to 20,000 per day, after criticism of the government’s isolationist policy.