Japan eases entry restrictions for foreigners

Japan's government is opening its doors to new foreign arrivals for the first time in 10 months.

It's a promising development for thousands of students and workers waiting to enter the country. But there's still a tight cap on the number of people allowed in each day.

A business traveler from Mexico at Narita airport near Tokyo said, "I think it's good because a lot of business and people, students and also spouses have been waiting for a long time to be able to come to Japan."

The new rules kicked in on Monday for people staying up to three months for business or work purposes, as well as foreign students and technical trainees staying longer. The restrictions for tourists have not changed.
Business travelers inoculated with coronavirus vaccines approved by Japan's government will only have to quarantine for three days in principle.

Companies hope the relaxation of restrictions will boost business.

A software development firm in Tokyo plans to launch operations in Thailand, but had difficulty checking details in remote meetings.

The company's president Iida Yoshihiro said, "It was quite hard to give instructions online, so I hope travel will help eliminate such problems and make communication more smooth."

The government is to continue to limit the number of international arrivals to 3,500 people a day, including Japanese citizens.
Immigration authorities say about 370,000 people with permission to stay in Japan were previously unable to enter.

Meanwhile, the government is changing the way to assess the severity of the country's coronavirus situation.

An expert panel says an updated model was needed, as the situation is changing due to vaccination and development of treatments.

The new system involves five stages and places greater emphasis on how strained medical services are.

Level zero means there have been no cases for a certain period of time, while the maximum level four means medical services are too strained to care for patients.

The panel says prefectures should aim to keep their situations no higher than level one so that everyday life and socioeconomic activities can gradually recover.

Government advisory panel chief Omi Shigeru said, "The new scale is aimed at capping infections to avoid overwhelming the medical system. It's also designed to get social, economic and educational activities back on track."

Omi says he hopes the central and local governments will use the new model and address the infection situations in their regions.

Health authorities across Japan confirmed more than 100 new cases on Monday. Three people died.