After more than two years of strict border restrictions, Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong have lifted COVID-19 restrictions on inbound travelers.
On Thursday, Japan’s government announced that the country would be resuming visa-free access for certain countries and reopening its borders to all individual tourists starting on Oct. 11.
The nation previously required tourists to join package tours when visiting. Tourists were limited to strict rules while they were in the country, which caused a major decrease in Japan’s tourism.
According to reports, only 8,000 tourists visited the country in July as compared to the 80,000 daily before COVID-19. The pandemic disrupted the free flow of people, goods and capital that had previously helped Japan flourish.
“But from 11 October, Japan will relax border control measures to be on par with the US, as well as resume visa-free travel and individual travel,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida reportedly said at the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday.
On the same day, Taiwan also announced its plan to remove inbound quarantine for international arrivals by Oct. 13. Previously, arrivals were required to quarantine in hotels for three days followed by four days of self-monitoring.
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However, Taiwan officials have pointed to low hospitalizations and death rates. The government stated that it would also increase the weekly quota for arrivals from 50,000 to 60,000 by Sep. 23. Tourists who qualified for visa-free access before the pandemic are now allowed to visit the island without a visa.
“It has finally come to the final moment of the pandemic,” Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen wrote on her Facebook page. “Now, we must make every effort to revive tourism, stimulate the economy and lead Taiwan’s economy to develop by leaps and bounds.”
Similarly, the Hong Kong government also announced on Friday its conclusion of hotel quarantine for inbound travelers starting Sep. 26. Hong Kong, which had some of the strictest restrictions during the pandemic, previously enforced 21 days of mandatory hotel quarantine for arrivals.
Hong Kong will soon only require travelers to present a negative COVID-19 test before boarding a flight to the city. Travelers will also be required to take a PCR test on the second, fourth and sixth days of their arrival. In addition, they are not allowed to engage in public areas, including in-person dining, for three days after arrival.
“I’m conscious of the fact that, while we need to control the spread of Covid, we also need to ensure that there will be maximum activities in society and economic activities for society to carry on,” Chief Executive of Hong Kong John Lee reportedly said.
As for mainland China, the government maintains its strict entry rules for travelers. Its “zero COVID” policy still requires travelers to quarantine at a hotel for 10 days at their own expense.
Last week, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organization, said the end of the pandemic is now “in sight” as the number of weekly reported deaths from COVID-19 has jumped to its lowest since March 2020.
“We have never been in a better position to end the pandemic,” Ghebreyesus stated at a press conference. “We can end this pandemic together, but only if all countries, manufacturers, communities and individuals step up and seize this opportunity.”