Japan also shortening quarantine period for vaccinated travelers.
Japan became the latest country to accept that COVID-19 is endemic and return itself back to normalcy.
Japan’s government announced Tuesday that the coronavirus state of emergency will end this week to help rejuvenate the economy as infections slow.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the emergency will end Thursday and virus restrictions will be eased gradually “in order to resume daily lives despite the presence of the virus.” He said the government will create more temporary COVID-19 treatment facilities and continue vaccinations to prepare for any future resurgence.
“Our fight against the coronavirus is now entering a new phase,” Suga said. “Finally, we can see social and economic activities starting to normalize.”
Japanese officials are weighing the use of vaccine passports and virus tests.
Japan’s current state of emergency, declared in April, was repeatedly extended and expanded. Despite public weariness and frustration over the measures, Japan has managed to avoid the more restrictive lockdowns imposed elsewhere while recording about 1.69 million cases and 17,500 deaths from COVID-19.
The emergency and other measures in all 27 prefectures expire at the end of September. Some experts want the state of emergency in 19 areas to be eased to a quasi-emergency first to ensure infections don’t quickly rebound, and the government is reportedly considering the strategy.
The emergency has mainly been in the form of requests for restaurants and bars to open for shorter hours and not serve alcohol. Governors in Osaka, Hyogo and Kyoto have said they plan to keep those requests in place while closely monitoring the virus situations.
The country is also loosening quarantine restrictions for people entering the country who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, shortening the required period for self-isolating at home from 14 days to 10 days.
People who have been fully vaccinated will be able to go outside as long as they test negative for the virus after 10 days following their arrival, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told a press conference.
Only shots developed by Pfizer Inc., Moderna Inc. or AstraZeneca Plc are eligible, and a “vaccine passport” either issued in or recognized by Japan is required.
People traveling from some countries including Britain and India that Japan sees as having a heightened risk of introducing coronavirus variants had needed to spend the first three of the 14 days in a government-designated facility, but will no longer be required to do so if they are fully vaccinated.
The news is being celebrated in Hawaii, as Japanese travelers account for a great deal of tourism.
The Japan market brings 1.7 million visitors to the islands each year, spending about $250 per person, per day. Visitors from Japan aren’t just known for being the highest-paying tourists.
“We want the Japanese traveler back. You couldn’t find a more respectful, more pono kind of visitor to Hawaii. They’re very respectful of our culture and our natural resources,” said Takahata.
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