Coronavirus Update – 18 March 2020

New information about coronavirus-related travel restrictions has been posted since this was written. Please reload the home page of the blog for the latest update.

Since I wrote the last Coronavirus Update at the end of February, I – and I’m sure most of you – had no idea the severity of the pandemic would reach where it is today. I want to take a moment to update you on the current issues regarding travel to Japan.

Should you travel to Japan right now? The number of new cases have slowed in Japan in recent days, and there are few travel advisories to Japan because the country has taken very aggressive steps to contain the outbreak. Nevertheless, other countries and regions may have their own views – not only on Japan, but on global travel in general. Some, like the United States, are suggesting that all travelers reconsider leaving their home country. Others, like Australia, simply say to do not travel.

My opinion at this point is to reconsider any non-essential travel. In other words, if traveling as a tourist, wait until the worst of this has passed before visiting Japan.

The information below is accurate, to the best of my knowledge, at the time of publication (Afternoon of March 18, 2020, Eastern Time) and is subject to the site-wide disclaimer.

Japan has instituted (or will be implementing) strict border controls barring travel into Japan from certain parts of the world aside from exceptional circumstances.

The Japan National Tourist Organization’s page on the coronavirus has an up-to-date list on the regions in the world from which entry is restricted. As of the time of writing, this includes portions of China, Iran, Italy, South Korea, Spain and Switzerland, and for all of Iceland and San Marino. Also, anyone holding a Chinese passport from Hubei and Zhejiang are included in the restrictions.

In addition, those arriving from certain parts of the world are being asked to voluntarily self-quarantine for 14 days and avoid using public transportation. As of the time of this writing, this includes all arrivals from China, Macau, Hong Kong and South Korea. As of March 21, 2020, the self-quarantine requests will expand to include most of Europe. This includes all arrivals from the Schengen Area countries and regions, plus Ireland and the United Kingdom. All arrivals from Egypt and Iran will also be asked to self-quarantine. Visas issued by Japan for arrivals from these areas have been cancelled as of the effective date of the quarantine, including some with visa exemptions.

Effective March 26, 2020, all arrivals from the United States are requested to self-quarantine. However, per the JNTO, visa arrangements from the United States are not affected.

You may also wish to consider that there are some countries and regions that have issued entry restrictions for those who have visited Japan in the last 14 days, or for any international travel. For example, Taiwan and Malaysia have decided to ban the entry of all foreign nationals in recent days.

The Japanese government continues to request that public gatherings and events be cancelled, postponed or scaled back. This means that many tourists sites in Japan are subject to closure or reduced hours. Group tours and events such as public conventions, religious services and concerts may be subject to cancellation or alteration.

Here are some preventative actions you can take for your health, as suggested by the CDC:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • If you are sick, stay home.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Use a regular household cleaning spray or wipe to disinfect frequently touched objects, such as door handles.
  • Clean your hands often by washing them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at 60%–95% alcohol. Use soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
  • Wash your hands after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.

The most common symptoms of coronavirus are fever, and signs of a lower respiratory illness such as coughing or shortness of breath. However, some cases of coronavirus are reported to have been diagnosed without any symptoms shown at all.

If you show symptoms of coronavirus, inform your health professional right away. Consider visiting your doctor or an urgent care facility, or a tele-health visit. Only go to a hospital if directed to do so.

Allow increased travel time when traveling internationally, in order to allow for more stringent health checks. If you land in Japan and do not feel well, report yourself to Quarantine or Health Consultation immediately (this is the first step of arrival procedures into the country, before immigration checks).

Whatever you do, please stay informed, travel safely, and do not take unnecessary risks that may compromise your health.

In addition to the JNTO, i recommend viewing the news updates from public broadcaster NHK. Here’s a link to their page dedicated to coronavirus news. I’ll provide another update as conditions warrant.

Coronavirus Outbreak

As you may have seen in the news, Japan is affected by the recent coronavirus outbreak in the region. As of this writing (25 February 2020) some NPHIs, including the Centers for Disease Control in the United States, have recommended that the elderly and those with chronic/pre-existing health conditions defer travel to Japan. Many governments have issued travel notices advising their citizens to exercise increased caution in Japan due to health concerns.

The coronavirus outbreak is still developing. The US CDC has advised against all nonessential travel to neighboring South Korea as of this post, so it remains to be seen whether or not a similar advisory will be issued for Japan in the future.

If you plan to visit Japan, here are some common sense recommendations from the US CDC:
*Avoid contact with sick people.
*Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
*Clean your hands often by washing them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at 60%–95% alcohol. Use soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
*Wash your hands after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
*If you have been in Japan (or another country affected by the outbreak) in the last 14 days and feel sick with fever, coughing, or difficulty breathing, contact a medical professional.

As someone with a pre-existing health condition, I hope that things in Japan will be sorted out, as I would like to try for visit #5 to the land of the rising sun very soon.

This article was written in February 2020 and is accurate at the time of publication, subject to the site-wide disclaimer.