Japan to ban passengers from parts of South Korea from Feb. 27 amid ongoing COVID-19 activity. Local restrictions, disruptions possible.

Severity: Warning Alert

This alert began 26 Feb 2020 07:17 GMT and is scheduled to expire 16 Mar 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Preventative restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Travel ban for travelers from parts of mainland China and South Korea, enhanced health screenings; possible business disruptions and quarantine

Japan will expand an existing entry ban to foreign passengers who have traveled to Daegu and Cheongdo County in South Korea from Feb. 27 to help prevent the spread of novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Tokyo previously banned passengers and passport holders from China's Zhejiang and Hubei provinces from entering the country. Authorities could expand the ban to cover additional provinces in China or other locations at short notice.

Officials continue to carry out enhanced health screenings at points of entry across the country for passengers from mainland China after classifying the disease caused by the virus, COVID-19, as a "designated infectious disease" Feb. 1. Travelers will still need to complete a health declaration and report any symptoms or potential exposure to officials upon arrival. The designation allows the government to implement more restrictions, such as enforced hospitalization or banning infected passengers.

Tokyo has empowered local governments to implement a variety of restrictions at the local level. However, as of Feb. 26, the central government has not issued any nationwide directives. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has encouraged organizers to cancel or suspend large sporting and cultural events in the country through at least mid-March. If events go forward, officials are requesting that planners implement measures to limit their size. The government has also encouraged businesses to consider telecommuting options for employees or altering work hours to reduce congestion on public transport systems in the country. Tokyo has also directed local governments to contemplate school closures in areas where COVID-19 cases increase, and prefectures and cities could also close some schools at short notice.

Flight disruptions are likely to continue in the coming weeks, particularly on routes to South Korea and mainland China. Some large Japanese carriers, such as Japan Airlines (JL) and All Nippon Airways (NH), reduced flights on routes to mainland China due to decreased demand, and reduced demand is possible on flights between Japan and South Korea. Authorities at 13 airports, including those in Nagasaki (NGS), Okayama (OKJ), and Niigata (KIJ), have also suspended direct flights with mainland China since Feb. 15.

Several countries are advising their citizens against nonessential travel to Japan. The US and Australian governments have raised their alert levels for Japan due to sustained community spread of COVID-19 in the country; however, neither country is advising against travel as of Feb. 26. Israel, Iraq, and Micronesia have banned foreign nationals from Japan; additional travel restrictions to and from Japan are possible in the coming days.

Follow all official instructions. Consider telecommuting options for staff. Allow additional time for immigration and health screenings, especially if traveling from China or South Korea. Consider delaying travel if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Confirm reservations for flights between Japan and destinations in mainland China and South Korea.

Exercise basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

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