Japan to end pre-departure COVID tests for fully vaccinated tourists in September

The measure will go into effect Sept. 7.

Japan is ending its pre-entry COVID-19 test requirement for fully vaccinated travelers with at least one booster dose, making it one of the last countries to do so.

The country, which has enforced some of the strictest border measures since the pandemic began, had required a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced Wednesday the restrictions will end Sept. 7.

"We plan to gradually ease border controls to allow entry procedures to be as smooth as those of other Group of Seven countries," Kishida said during a virtual press conference from his official residence, where he is isolating after testing positive for COVID Sunday. "We will speed up our efforts while balancing infection measures and social and economic activities going as much as possible."

Kishida also announced the isolation period for people who test positive for COVID-19 will be shortened but did not provide specifics. Currently, those with symptoms are required to isolate for 10 days and those without symptoms for seven days.

However, other restrictions in the country will continue to remain in place. Japan will continue its cap of 20,000 daily visitors.

Kishida did say the government is considering increasing the daily cap on travelers next month. Local media reports suggest the government will more than double the cap to 50,000 per day.

So far, only 387,000 people have visited Japan between January and May this year, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization. This pales in comparison to the 31.8 million people who visited the nation in 2019.

Additionally, foreign tourists are only allowed to visit as part of a guided package tour and must apply for a visa. Independent travelers are not yet allowed entry into the country.

Currently, those allowed to enter include Japanese nationals, family members of Japanese residents, international students and certain business travelers.

It is unclear when a full reopening will occur.

The changes come as Japan battles a new wave of COVID-19 infections. According to the World Health Organization, Japan confirmed more than 185,400 cases Tuesday. At the beginning of July, the country was recording just 23,000 new cases.

COVID-19–related deaths have also been increasing. On Tuesday, the country recorded 269 deaths, WHO data shows. Meanwhile, at the beginning of July, Japan was reporting between 10 and 15 deaths per day.