Japan’s travel ban has hit 85% of European businesses there

Japan's highest peak Mount Fuji, 3,776.24m, is seen over cherry blossoms in full bloom and a memorial pagoda for war dead at Arakurayama Sengen Park in Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi Prefecture, central Japan. EPA-EFE/KIMIMASA MAYAMA

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Japan’s travel ban to stop the spread of the coronavirus has hit a majority of European firms in the country and could prompt those businesses to rethink their future in the world’s third-largest economy, a European business lobby said.

Many countries have imposed travel curbs amid the pandemic but Japan’s are among the most strict, effectively banning entry of tourists and visa holders coming from 129 countries. Even permanent residents are restricted entry unless they are granted an exception under humanitarian grounds, while in the United States and Europe, non-citizen residents are allowed to return.

A recent survey by the European Business Council of 376 members in Japan showed that 85% had been negatively impacted by the ban, with 44% reporting financial losses. The EBC said the travel restrictions run counter to international treaties.

“This situation may also trigger some investment disputes against Japan,” EBC president Michael Mroczek told reporters.

The way the ban was handled creates an air of unpredictability that may cause CEOs to “rethink their policy regarding Japan,” he said.

Japan allows its citizens to return to the country if they take a coronavirus test at the port of entry and observe a period of self-quarantine.

Foreigners living in Japan face much higher hurdles for re-entry, such as demonstrating the need to visit dying relatives or be reunited with family in the country.

The EBC’s remarks echoed those of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ), which has decried the country’s “double standard” in reentry requirements.

Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs declined to comment on the EBC’s claims. Immigration officials have said previously that they are considering ways to ease the ban but are prioritizing contagion controls.

Restrictions to contain the spread of the virus have already helped tip Japan’s economy into its first recession in 4-1/2 years, as the country tries to stave off a second wave of infections which has brought total cases to more than 25,000 in the country.

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