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The Coronavirus Situation in Japan

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

By 7 min read

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

After yet another surge in coronavirus cases, several prefectures in Japan have entered the fourth state of emergency.

This follows the first nationwide state of emergency declared on April 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 which was lifted on Mar. 21, 2021 and the third, which was 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 July 15, 2021, more than 800,000 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Japan. There are more than 14,900 confirmed deaths. For comparison, the total number of confirmed deaths in the United States is more than 605,000.

When can I get the vaccine?

The government will procure enough COVID vaccines for all eligible residents (including foreign residents) by the end of September. Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, says that 1.93 million shots have already been administered as of April 18, 2021.

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

Currently, priority is given to the elderly and frontline workers. Vaccines for the general public should begin by the end of June.

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.

What is Japan’s re-entry ban?

Returning foreign residents must undergo a 14-day quarantine or be subject to deportation.
 
 
  UPDATED: May. 13, 2021

Japan will restrict entry from India, Nepal and Pakistan regardless of valid residence permits. Japanese nationals returning from those countries will still be allowed entry.

 
 
UPDATED: Mar. 21, 2021

Japan has extended its travel ban on all new entries for foreign nationals, including students. Only foreigners with valid residence permits will be allowed to enter the country.

 
 
UPDATED: Jan. 14, 2021

Due to the second state of emergency, “Japan will suspend the entry of all nonresident foreign nationals into the country.” Resident foreign nationals and Japanese nationals must test for the virus at least 72 hours before their departure to Japan and submit documentation that they tested negative for the virus. Additionally, they are asked to self-isolate at home or at a hotel for two weeks upon arrival.

Japanese and resident foreigners who are allowed to enter 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 also have their resident status revoked and be subject to deportation.

 
 
UPDATED: July 30, 2020

From Aug. 5, Japan will allow foreign nationals with residence status reentry into the country if they left before the ban was instated. Foreign residents who left after, or are currently planning to leave the country, are not included. Non-Japanese residents must provide proof in the form of a “Certificate of Testing for COVID-19” conducted 72 hours before their flight.

They must also collect documents confirming their re-entry permission from their local Japanese Embassy. Any single test of the following will suffice:

  • Real-time RT-PCR
  • RT- LAMP test
  • Antigen test (CLEIA)

Other requirements include a 14-day inspection of the resident’s health condition before entering Japan and self-isolation upon arrival. You must also agree to a government-sponsored tracking app installed on your smartphone. The government has stated its intentions to enforce stricter entry procedures for all residents from Sep. 1, 2020. Check the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan’s official website for more information.

Can I deliver or receive mail in Japan?

The coronavirus has affected inbound and outbound mail in Japan, but international mail is still accepted. However, you should expect delays. Japan Post will resume accepting EMS (with additional fees) from June 1, 2021.

Visit the official website for updates on allowed mail and territories.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics

The government plans to continue with the Olympics from July 23 to Aug. 8.

Despite calls from the public to cancel, the government and the International Olympic Committee postponed the Tokyo Olympics until summer 2021. The Olympics will now be held from July 23 to Aug. 8 and without foreign spectators. Foreign participants will be allowed entry into Japan.

Games tickets that are already purchased will be valid for a new date.

Organizers stated the following in regards to ticket holders:

  • In principle, tickets already purchased will be valid for a new date.
  • Your tickets will be refunded if you will not be able to visit the venue on a new date and wish to receive a refund.
  • In case we cannot secure your place for a new date due to the change in schedule and/or venue, your tickets will be refunded.
  • Previously, we planned to deliver the Games tickets from June, but we have decided to suspend delivery for now.

How to protect yourself

Good hygiene is your best weapon against the 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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