Prime Minister Kishida Fumio announced the extension on Tuesday.
The current entry ban went into effect on November 30, with stricter quarantine rules for anyone returning from countries where cases of the Omicron variant have been confirmed.
In announcing the extension, Kishida added the caveat that cases involving humanitarian issues or national interest would be given additional consideration.
Third round of vaccinations
Kishida also unveiled an updated vaccination policy. The timeline for booster shots for the elderly has been moved up, with the government to ask prefectural authorities to set up large-scale inoculation venues and additional sites to increase the pace of vaccinations. The government also plans to open up booster shots to the general public as early as March, using additional supplies of the Moderna vaccine.
Kishida said his administration will work with the Self-Defense Forces to set up a large vaccination venue to support local efforts.
The government is also pushing for children 12 and older to get vaccinated, as the Omicron variant has been particularly prevalent in this age group. The government is in the process of getting vaccines authorized for children under 12 as well.
Kishida said the government will ask schools to compile flexible measures, such as organizing make-up exam dates and allowing students to enroll late, as well as offering online classes.
Surge in the south
The government has implemented quasi-emergency restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus in Okinawa, Yamaguchi, and Hiroshima prefectures, lasting from January 9 to the end of the month.
The southernmost prefecture of Okinawa is at the center of the latest surge. The number of new daily cases exceeded 1,700 earlier this month and has increased more than 30-fold since the first day of the year.
With a growing number of medical staff unable to work, the Self-Defense Forces has dispatched medical personnel to work at hospitals in Okinawa
“The important thing is to protect the lives of the people,” Prime Minister Kishida told reporters on Tuesday. “It is a battle against an unknown virus, but I hope that we can overcome this situation by making adequate preparations and working together without excessive fear.”