Japan to open to tourists after two years but only with masks, insurance and guides – Reuters

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Foreign tourists visiting Japan will be required to wear masks, take out private medical insurance and be accompanied throughout their stay, the government announced on Tuesday, as it plans a gradual opening from two years of COVID-19 restrictions. .

Only package tour visitors will be allowed during the first phase of reopening, starting June 10, the Japan Tourism Agency (JTA) said, adding that travel agency guides accompanying visitors should ensure that they wear their mask.

“Tour guides should frequently remind tour participants of necessary infection prevention measures, including wearing and removing masks, at every stage of the tour,” the JTA said in its guidelines.

“Even outdoors, mask-wearing should continue in situations where people are conversing in close proximity. »

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Japan has imposed some of the strictest border controls in the world during the pandemic, barring entry to almost all non-residents.

As most of the rest of the world opens up from COVID lockdowns, Japan is also relaxing its rules. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has pledged to bring border measures in line with those of other wealthy countries.

Visitors, wearing masks after the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), explore the wooden torii gates of the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shinto shrine in Kyoto, Japan, March 13, 2020. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido/File Photo
(REUTERS/Edgard Garrido/File Photo)

The government has recently started to relax mask guidelines for the general public, although coverings are ubiquitous. Wearing masks to prevent the spread of germs and repel pollen was common in Japan before the coronavirus pandemic.

Last month, Japan held group “test tours” of about 50 people, mostly travel agents, but one of the attendees tested positive for COVID.

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James Jang, an Australian travel agent who went on one of the trial tours, said the rules are likely to put some people off at the moment.

“Customers will be fine with wearing a mask indoors, but wearing them around the clock is a problem,” Jang told Reuters.

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“The cost of having a guide at all times can deter clients until later when they have more flexibility. »

In 2019, Japan welcomed 31.9 million foreign visitors, who spent 4.81 trillion yen ($36.28 billion). ($1 = 132.5700 yen)

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