TOKYO, Japan: Nearly all international travelers will be prohibited from entering Japan in February, in a bid to fight the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.
Additionally, closing the country's borders will allow for more quickly delivering COVID-19 booster vaccines to senior citizens, as well as increasing capacity at hospitals in anticipation of large numbers of admissions due to Omicron, according to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
Japan had reduced border restrictions in November after a rapid drop in the COVID-19 case count, though swiftly restoring the ban on nearly all international visitors following the surfacing of the Omicron strain.
Kishida noted that rigorous border restrictions had aided in slowing the transmission of the Omicron strain, while deeming the closure as a time-buying measure to prepare for a looming spike.
In the first week of January, Kishida imposed a COVID-19 pre-emergency status in Hiroshima, Okinawa, and Yamaguch, after the cities recorded an increase in cases seemingly transmitted from the United States military bases. In keeping with the restrictions, restaurants were called upon to reduce their operating hours.
However, the pace of deployment of booster shots, with medical officials prioritized in December, has been sluggish. Until January 7, only 0.6 percent of the Japanese populace had been administered a third vaccine.
Kishida has since confirmed that to quicken the administration of booster vaccines, mass inoculation centers are to be opened throughout the country.
On January 11, Tokyo recorded 962 new cases of the coronavirus disease, increasing six times from the previous week. Across Japan on January 10, some 6,438 additional cases were reported.