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Even with nearly empty flights, airport quarantine stations stretched to the limit

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According to data from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, arrivals at Japanese international airports who tested positive for the coronavirus numbered 124, of whom 93, or about 70%, were holders of foreign passports.

"Thinking that the spread of the virus in Japan has declined, more foreigners have been returning," a reporter who covers the medical field tells Shukan Bunshun (Aug 13-20).

According to the Ministry of Justice, about 18,000 foreigners entered Japan during the period from April to June. The numbers picked up after the declaration of emergency was terminated at the end of May, and in June about 8,000 arrivals were recorded.

"People residing in 146 countries and regions are, in principle, banned from entry," said the aforementioned reporter. "However it appears that those holding permanent residence status or other status of residence who had left Japan before the restrictions on travel were put into place are being allowed to return."

"All entrants into Japan are required to undergo testing," a quarantine official at Narita International Airport tells the magazine. "On a busy day we'll test about 1,000 people; on slow days, maybe around 500."

The language barrier and paperwork complicate their tasks.

"With PCR testing, about 50% of arrivals from Pakistan tested positive," the official continued. "We isolate them from other travelers. The positive ratio of arrivals from the Philippines, Brazil, Peru and others has also been high."

In addition to testing, the officials have other tasks to perform.

"It takes six hours to obtain test results," says the official. "Some people can wait out the time in rooms at hotels secured by the government, but quite a few others do their waiting in spaces that have been cleared in the luggage pick-up area. They are carefully watched by staff."

Those found to test positive are either admitted to hospitals or sent to recover at designated lodgings. Even those testing negative are obliged to spend two weeks in a hotel, beginning from the day of their entry.

"They are prohibited from riding on public transportation, and must either rent a car or use their own vehicle when leaving the airport, which will be verified by an official."

From the end of July, the PCR tests were replaced by a faster antigen test using saliva samples, the results of which are generally known within 30 minutes.

Shukan Bunshun's source says that the top-down imposition of the new testing system led to confusion, and at present the 50 staff at the airport proved insufficient to handle the workload, which had to be buttressed with another 20 part-timers.

"With more people entering the country, it's not realistic to expect the quarantine stations will be able to prevent infected people from coming in," Kyoto University professor Hiroshi Nishiura is quoted as saying. "Even if everyone does their utmost and succeeds in preventing the spread, there's a good chance that once the restrictions are relaxed the number of infected will resurge.

"Considering the risks, I suppose the government will need to restrict entrants from abroad."

The question is, what kind of standards should be applied to these restrictions? Responding to this question, a staff at the Immigration Bureau said, "The government's task force will make this decision based on the prevailing conditions of infections and the medical situation at each country and region from which people travel."

One thing that can't be permitted is the exploiting of loopholes, the magazine concludes.

© Japan Today

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

6 Comments
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They are carefully watched by staff.

I feel so safe knowing that I am being watched. Interestingly the whole article makes this out to be a problem of foreigners bringing the virus to Japan and ignores completely the larger number of Japanese travelers.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

As mentioned in this article so many foreigners made their way back to Japan despite the travel restrictions. I was under the impression that foreigners even with permanent residency weren’t allowed into Japan!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

"Thinking that the spread of the virus in Japan has declined, more foreigners have been returning," a reporter who covers the medical field tells Shukan Bunshun (Aug 13-20).

The reporter quoted above is wrong. Japan’s re-entry ban on non-citizen residents has been relaxed starting just this month. The vast majority did not have the option to return until now. Also, Japan has been more successful at limiting Covid than most other countries. Most returnees (whether they are foreigners living in Japan or Japanese living in Japan) are leaving countries with higher infection and death rates than Japan. It is unlikely they waited until now because of concern about infections in Japan being too high. (By the way, infections are now at an all time high in Japan.)

0 ( +1 / -1 )

According to the Ministry of Justice, about 18,000 foreigners entered Japan during the period from April to June. The numbers picked up after the declaration of emergency was terminated at the end of May, and in June about 8,000 arrivals were recorded.

Previous press reports had quoted government statistics showing a 99.9% drop vs 2019 in foreigners entering Japan, to about 7,300 for the first 3 months of the entry ban, April through June. Could the 18,000 noted in this article refer to Japanese nationals rather than foreigners?

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/07/16/national/foreign-visitors-japan-drop-99-9-june-3rd-straight-month/

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Maybe careful.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Glenn TerashitaAug. 12 04:23 pm JST

"Thinking that the spread of the virus in Japan has declined, more foreigners have been returning," a reporter who covers the medical field tells Shukan Bunshun (Aug 13-20).

The reporter quoted above is wrong. Japan’s re-entry ban on non-citizen residents has been relaxed starting just this month. The vast majority did not have the option to return until now. Also, Japan has been more successful at limiting Covid than most other countries. Most returnees (whether they are foreigners living in Japan or Japanese living in Japan) are leaving countries with higher infection and death rates than Japan. It is unlikely they waited until now because of concern about infections in Japan being too high. (By the way, infections are now at an all time high in Japan.)

The whole article reads as both disinformation and a non too subtle attempt at foreigner blaming.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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