TOKYO: The Japanese government plans to start negotiations on easing the ban on entry from and travel to Thailand, Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand, multiple government sources said Monday.
It would be the first easing of entry and travel restrictions that were imposed to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
The government hopes to find the right timing for the easing while negotiating with the four countries about related conditions and carefully watching the situation with infections, the sources said.
In order to prevent the virus from entering the country while also stepping up economic activities, Tokyo plans to limit eligible travelers to business people and specialists. Japan will discuss conditions such as quarantine measures with the four countries, according to the sources.
It is considering allowing people to travel if they test negative for the virus in polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests and antibody testing conducted before departure or entry.
The government started considering easing restrictions for the four countries as virus outbreaks appear to be contained there.
The four countries "have low numbers of infection cases," a senior Japanese government official said.
At a press conference on Monday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that the government "will carefully consider countries and travelers eligible for the easing and related procedures while taking into account the infection situations in and outside the country."
China and South Korea have been calling for resumption of business activities between themselves and Japan, as they have strong business ties with Japan.
But Tokyo is hesitant to ease restrictions preferentially for the two neighbors because it believes that the easing might send wrong messages to China, which is tightening control over Hong Kong, and South Korea, with which Japan has issues related to wartime labor and other matters.
Japan will stop short of including China and South Korea in the first group of countries to be subject to the easing "for political reasons," an official related to the government said.
As of Monday, the entry ban covers 110 countries and one region. Border control measures currently in place will be in effect until the end of June.