Japan to close schools from March 2 amid ongoing COVID-19 activity. Several international travel restrictions remain in place.

Severity: Warning Alert

This alert began 27 Feb 2020 17:01 GMT and is scheduled to expire 31 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, outbound travel bans to multiple countries, enhanced health screenings; likely business disruptions

Summary
Japan will close all schools in the country from March 2 to the beginning of the spring holiday period, which typically begins in late March. Due to the subsequent holiday period, schools will effectively remain closed through at least early April. The measure is aimed at preventing the spread of novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). National government officials have also called on employers to facilitate days off for workers with school-age children and to consider telecommuting options or altering work hours to reduce congestion on public transport systems in the country. Authorities in some municipalities, including Osaka and most cities in Hokkaido, already closed public schools from Feb. 27.

As of Feb. 27, Japan is banning foreign passengers who have traveled to Daegu and Cheongdo County in South Korea. Foreign nationals with recent travel history to China's Zhejiang and Hubei provinces are similarly banned from entering Japan. Authorities could expand the ban to cover additional areas, including entire countries, at short notice.

Several countries are advising their citizens against nonessential travel to Japan. Numerous national governments have raised their alert levels for Japan due to sustained community spread of COVID-19 in the country. As of Feb. 27, officials in Israel, Iraq, Micronesia, and Mongolia have banned foreign nationals with recent travel history in Japan from entering their countries; additional travel restrictions to and from Japan are likely in the coming days and weeks.

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 and South Korea due to decreased demand. Additional service cancellations are likely, as flights to and from Japan experience significantly decreased demand. 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.

Officials continue to carry out enhanced health screenings at points of entry across the country. 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. Authorities are encouraging 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.

Advice
Follow all official instructions. Consider telecommuting options for staff. Make allowances for likely increased employee absenteeism and related business disruptions. 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 abroad. Closely monitor national travel advisories, as additional travel restrictions to and from Japan are likely.

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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