Japan said on Friday it will shorten the quarantine period for travelers arriving in the country to 10 days from the current 14 days.
Citizens and Japan residents who come from countries that have been severely hit by the coronaviruses will be able to enter the country under the new rules, according to the Foreign Ministry. New entries of foreign nationals are effectively banned due to COVID 19 border restrictions.
The length of time in which they are required to self-quarantine in places such as their own residence or accommodations after entry into Japan, to follow-up checks conducted by the Health Monitoring Center for Overseas Entrants and refrain from using public transportation is changed from 14 days to 10 days, the Foreign Ministry said.
The period had been three days but was extended to 14 days in late November as the government tightened border controls after the emergence of Omicron.
The quarantine period was shortened for close contacts of COVID 19 patients from 14 days to 10 after the government shortened the quarantine period.
The Incubation period for the omicron variant is around three days, shorter than those of other variants, and 99% of symptomatic patients developed symptoms within 10 days of infection, according to the National Institute of Infectious Diseases.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's administration is trying to minimize social disruption and to prevent further strain on the medical system because of the policy changes.
Health Minister Shigeyuki Goto said on Friday that local authorities would be able to cut the isolation period at their own discretion for essential workers such as police officers and child and nursing care workers to six days at the shortest.
As for doctors and nurses who have had close contact with those infected with the coronaviruses, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has already notified prefectural and local governments that they will be able to continue working if they test negative every day.
The country, which has been experiencing a sixth wave of the pandemic, is facing a rising number of infections because of the latest decisions.
Japan's daily coronaviruses rose to 20,000 on Friday for the first time since Sept. 1, taking only two days to reach the current level after surpassing 10,000, according to reports by prefectural governments.
4,051 new cases were reported in Tokyo, topping 4,000 for the first time since August. Osaka Prefecture reported 2,826 cases, while Okinawa Prefecture, which has been under a quasi-state of emergency since last Sunday, reported 1,596 infections.
If the occupancy rate of hospital beds for COVID 19 patients reaches 35%, Hirofumi Yoshimura is considering asking the central government to declare a quasi-state of emergency in the western prefecture. The rate was 21.5% as of Friday.
The governors can request that dining establishments cut business hours and stop serving alcohol because of the quasi-emergency measures.