On Jan. 31, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of COVID-19 or the coronavirus a global emergency.
The government of Japan has made measures to curb the virus from spreading further. A nationwide state of emergency was lifted on May. 26, 2020, but Tokyo returned to normalcy in phases. Moreover, residents were no longer asked to refrain from crossing prefectural borders.
On Jan. 07, 2021, Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa entered a second state of emergency with more prefectures expected to follow. While some 540 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been secured, distribution is not expected until May.
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.
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 Jan. 12, more than 290,000 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Japan. There are more than 4,100 confirmed deaths. For comparison, the total number of confirmed deaths in the United States is more than 370,000.
What is Japan’s re-entry ban?
Jan. 14, 2021 Update
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.
Jul. 30, 2020 Update
From Aug. 5, Japan will allow foreign nationals with residence status reentry into the country if they left before the Apr. 3 travel 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.
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.
- Currently, only small mail and packages will be accepted by Japan Post.
- Addresses must be printed instead of handwritten for items sent overseas from Jan. 1, 2021.
Visit the official website for updates on allowed mail and territories.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics are postponed
After weeks of stating the contrary, the government and the International Olympic Committee finally postponed the Tokyo Olympics until the summer of 2021. Whether this happens is still up in the air.
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.
Are masks effective against the coronavirus?
According to WHO, “masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.” However, some officials attribute Japan’s low infection rate to its mask-wearing culture.
How to protect yourself 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, really.
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.
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.
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.