Japan has softened its suspension of all new incoming flight bookings to make it easier for citizens to return, the government said today, a day after it announced the move prompted by worries about the Omicron Corona virus variant.

The Transport Ministry abruptly said yesterday, it was asking airlines to stop taking all new incoming flight reservations for a month, in a surprise move affecting citizens and foreign residents.

But, Government Spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno today said, it would be amended. This request caused confusion among those affected and so the Prime Minister instructed the Transport Ministry to examine the issue and consider the needs of Japanese citizens hoping to return home, he told reporters. As a result, the Ministry asked airlines to cancel the blanket suspension of new reservations for international flights to accommodate Japanese hoping to return home, he added.

Japan has had tight border restrictions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, barring almost all foreign arrivals. It had begun to ease those rules slightly last month to allow some students and business travellers entry, but reversed that decision after the emergence of the Omicron variant.

After a summer surge in cases, Japan is registering only double-digit infections nationwide most days, and has logged around 18,360 deaths during the pandemic.

Around 77 per cent of the country’s population is now fully vaccinated and booster shots began rolling out yesterday for people who received their second dose at least eight months ago.


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