On balance, Japan has handled the covid-19 pandemic extremely well, avoiding any of the catastrophic outbreaks seen in the West, despite close proximity to initial epicenters. The country is looking to slowly ease the movement of people within the country, but now to also create travel corridors to reboot commerce and travel between international borders.
For many, it’s just the news they’ve been hoping for. The bad news: most will only be able to look on with envy…
Japan plans to open up travel with Thailand and Vietnam, followed by Australia and New Zealand, in a phased initial trial which will see just 250 daily business travelers from each. The move follows similar efforts launched between South Korea and China to boost regional commerce.
Early reports suggest these initial corridors could open between Japan, Thailand and Vietnam as soon as July, with Australia, New Zealand, and perhaps many more to follow in the autumn and winter of 2020. Europe is said to be considering opening travel to Japan for later in the year. All initial focus will involve business travel, with confirmed itineraries and stringent testing requirements in place.
For perhaps the first time in all covid-19 related travel news, countries seem to be working in unison, rather than closing borders with one, without alerting the other in advance. Japan’s timeline for creating cross border travel with Australia and New Zealand actually matches the timelines Australia and New Zealand have set forth.
Nikkei quotes a government official stating “To expand [the reopening] to the U.S., China, South Korea and Taiwan, we would need a capacity of 10,000 tests a day,” and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to tackle this by creating a dedicated testing facility for travelers.
According to Nikkei, Japan is acutely aware of the tensions which may flare if the country opens up travel with China before creating opportunities for the United States. Similarly, opening travel to Taiwan, which was one of the most successful in the fight against covid-19 could anger Beijing. In other words, opening will be as much about politics as epidemiology.
Early travelers departing Japan will need a PCR test on departure, as well as return, and the same will likely apply to all inbound travel. The country presently has the ability to screen over 2,000 international passengers per day, but is applying a crawl then walk approach to ensure success.
Creating a dedicated testing facility for travel would create an element of certainty and consistency of experience for inbound visitors as travel reopens in Japan, and would ultimately be a small price to pay for the privilege of setting foot on Japanese soil once again. From this corner of the globe, I can’t wait…