Japan lifts inbound flight booking ban after confusion

Image of a notice on security measures for COVID-19 next to closed exit gates at Narita International Airport on the first day of closed borders to prevent the spread of the new omicron variant of the coronavirus, in Narita, east of Tokyo Japan. November 30, 2021. REUTERS / Kim Kyung-Hoon

TOKYO, Dec 2 (Reuters) – Japan on Thursday reversed its ban on inbound flight reservations, revealing confusion among government agencies and the public over Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s strategy to contain the spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus.

On Monday, Japan’s aviation bureau told airlines not to accept new bookings for December due to omicron, of which two cases have been detected in the country, but the abrupt announcement raised concerns among those aiming to return for the holidays. end of the year.

Kishida said the move caused confusion, and Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno added that the prime minister had asked the Ministry of Transportation, which oversees the airline industry, to take into account the needs of returning Japanese. .

“I understand that the Ministry of Transportation canceled its instructions for the general suspension of new reservations and again asked the airlines to consider the needs of returning Japanese citizens,” Matsuno told a regular news conference.

Airlines can accept new bookings as long as the number of arrivals stays below the daily limit of 3,500, down from the 5,000 figure last month, a transport ministry official said.

On Monday, Kishida banned new foreigners from entering Japan, rolling back the border opening measures that began last month. Later, the ban was extended to foreign residents of Japan arriving from 10 countries in Africa, where omicron was first identified.

Restrictions on new flight bookings came to light on Wednesday.

On Thursday, Transport Minister Tetsuo Saito told reporters that the aviation bureau had “responded quickly from an emergency and prevention point of view.”

Later on Thursday, in a further tightening of the rules, the Nikkei financial daily reported that the issuance of visas for special purposes, such as athletes and musicians, would be temporarily suspended.

(Reporting by Sakura Murakami, Tim Kelly, Maki Shiraki, Rocky Swift, Kiyoshi Takenaka and Elaine Lies. Edited in Spanish by Marion Giraldo)


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