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The Coronavirus Situation in Japan

Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Japan so far.

By 5 min read

On Jan. 31, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of COVID-19 or the coronavirus a global emergency.

After a surge in cases, several prefectures in Japan entered the fourth state of emergency. On Aug. 18, 2021, the state of emergency was extended until Sept. 12, 2021, but was extended yet again on Sept. 09, until Sept. 30.

It follows the first nationwide state of emergency declared on Apr. 16, 2020, which was lifted on May. 26, 2020, the second state of emergency declared on Jan. 07, 2021, for Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba and other prefectures lifted on Mar. 21, 2021, and the third declared in April and lifted in late June.

JNTO, the Japan National Tourism Organization, has a multilingual coronavirus hotline for those who think they may be affected. Support is available in English, Chinese, and Korean 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

If you’re living in Japan or planning to visit after the pandemic, you may be wondering how safe it is. What can you do to protect yourself? What events have been affected? Will the virus impact travel plans outside of Japan and greater Asia?

Here is the most up-to-date run-down we can give. It is worth noting, however, that because this is a new and fast-spreading virus, what we know now could change in the future.

What’s Japan’s infection rate?

As of Sept. 16, 2021, more than 1,600,000 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Japan. There are more than 17,000 confirmed deaths. For comparison, the total number of confirmed deaths in the United States is more than 662,000.

When can I get the vaccine?

A medical worker getting vaccinated in Japan.

About 58% of Japan’s population has been vaccinated as of Sept. 16, 2021. Priority was first given to the elderly and frontline workers. As of August, vaccines for the general public should be in effect. Suga vowed to finish vaccinations by November.

All residents aged 16 and older, including foreigners, will receive vouchers for the vaccine by mail from their municipality. The vouchers will have your name and a specific number that will allow you to be inoculated free of charge by presenting the voucher at a vaccination center. You will need to make a reservation online or by phone before going to the vaccination center.

You will need to receive the vaccine twice—three weeks apart. Normal side effects include pain in the arm where it was vaccinated, fatigue, headache, sore muscles, joint pain, fever, chills and diarrhea.

You can learn more about getting vaccinated in Japan on the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan’s official website.

What is Japan’s re-entry ban?

Returning foreign residents must undergo a 14-day quarantine or be subject to deportation.

Japan is currently under an entry ban for the indefinite future. The official website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan states:

“For the time being, foreign nationals who have stayed in any of the following 159 countries/regions within 14 days prior to the application for landing are denied to enter Japan.”

Can foreign residents re-enter Japan?

You may re-enter Japan if you have a proper visa.

Foreign residents are allowed to re-enter Japan.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan has stated:

“Foreign nationals with a status of residence of “Permanent Resident,” “Spouse or Child of a Japanese National,” “Spouse or Child of a Permanent Resident” or “Long Term Resident,” will be treated as persons in special exceptional circumstances.”

Foreign residents and Japanese nationals must test for the virus at least 72 hours before their departure to Japan and submit documentation that they have tested negative for the coronavirus. 

The below testing methods are valid:

  • PCR – Polymerase chain reaction 
  • (RT-)PCR – Reverse transcription PCR (real-time (RT-)PCR/Q-PCR/FluorescencePCR/Multiplex-PCR) 
  • LAMP – Loop-mediated isothermal amplification (RT-LAMP) 
  • TMA – Transcription mediated amplification 
  • TRC – Transcription-reverse transcription concerted reaction 
  • Smart Amp – Smart amplification process 
  • NEAR – Nicking endonuclease amplification reaction (e.g., ID-NOW)
  • Next-generation sequencing 
  • Quantitative antigen test (CLEIA/ECLEIA)

After re-entering Japan, you must sign a pledge upon arrival to stay in quarantine for 14 days. Failure to do so will result in penalties, such as disclosing the names of violators. Foreign residents who break their 14-day quarantine may have their visa status revoked and be subject to deportation.

Other requirements include agreeing to a government-sponsored tracking app installed on your smartphone. 

Visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan’s official website for more information.

How to protect yourself

Good hygiene is your best weapon against coronavirus.

There are a few key preventative measures you should take while in Japan to decrease your risk of getting infected. These are the same general rules that you should apply during the cold and flu season.

Wash your hands regularly with antibacterial agents and soap

This is especially important before touching your face or eating, and after coming in contact with animals and public spaces like restaurants and public transportation.

Avoid touching your face

This is something we do so often and a key way through which viruses can get into the body.

Avoid taking the train during rush hour

The virus is spread via respiratory droplets—easily transmitted through coughing and sneezing. Obviously, you want to avoid contact with sick people and try to maintain at least a one-meter distance between yourself and infected persons. Riding the train during morning and evening rush hours in major cities like Tokyo may increase your chance of exposure.

Wipe down surfaces before using them

This is important in public spaces with high turnover rates, such as fast-food restaurants.

What should you do if you think you have the coronavirus?

JNTO, the Japan National Tourism Organization, has a multilingual coronavirus hotline for those who think they may be affected. Support is available in English, Chinese, and Korean 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Symptoms of the virus include fever, cough and shortness of breath. 

The Tokyo Coronavirus Support Center for Foreign Residents (TOCOS) will cease operations at the end of fiscal 2020 (March 31). From April 1, Tokyo Multilingual Consultation Navi (TMC Navi) will expand its services to take over the functions of TOCOS and will continue to assist foreign nationals with consultations concerning COVID-19.

Check the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare’s website for updates as the situation gradually changes. The Ministry has also provided a list of hospitals in Japan that are able to provide testing and treatment for the virus. Unfortunately, the list is in Japanese only.

Visit our page at GaijinPot Health for a list of numbers to call by prefecture.

We will continue to update this page as the story in Japan develops.

Please call the JNTO Multilingual Hotline at 050-3816-2787 in English, Japanese, or Korean in the event of emergencies related to the coronavirus.

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