After imposing a ban on upcoming international flight reservations, Japan announced a retraction on Wednesday, Dec. 1. The ban faced criticism, with many Japanese considering it an exaggeration.
The prohibition has forced international airlines carriers to halt bookings for flights arriving in Japan till the year-end as an urgent preventive measure amid rising concerns about Omicron, a new strain of coronavirus.
On Sunday, Japan reported a second Omicron-infected patient, who had received a full dose of vaccination, following the first case discovered in a Namibian diplomat on Saturday, The Associated Press reported.
Japanese officials said that they introduced the ban to strictly control the border amid the global wide-spreading of Omicron. They aimed to decrease the outside-Japan visitors from 5,000 to 3,500.
However, the new policy did not receive the public’s approval, many of whom had prepared travel plans for the coming holiday season, particularly Japanese citizens living abroad longing to turn back home during the New Year period.
The retraction came following the criticism about its strictness and possibility of leaving behind its own citizens, the transport ministry said Thursday.
Several social media users criticized the act as too strict; one user even referred to it as Japan’s feudal-era national isolation policy in comparison. However, Japan had been applying easier social and economic constraints since September after witnessing the rapid slow-down of coronavirus contagion.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said that the swift change resulted from considering Japanese people’s traveling demands.
“I have instructed the transport ministry to fully pay attention to the needs of Japanese citizens to return home,” the prime minister said.
However, as the transport ministry official Hitoshi Inoue said, the 3,500 visitor-per-day limits must be maintained following the limitation request, meaning new reservations can be conducted only when the under-limit slots are still available.
Japan has already issued a global entry ban on foreign arrivals, excluding Japanese nationals’ spouses or those possessing permanent residency permits, and others with special considerations.