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Japan to require COVID tests for all visitors from China

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TOKYO (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced Tuesday that Japan will tighten border controls against COVID-19 by requiring tests for all visitors from China starting Friday as a temporary emergency measure against the surging infections there.

The announcement comes days after the World Health Organization said it was very concerned about rising reports of severe cases across China after the country largely abandoned its “zero-COVID” policy.

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The quantitative antigen test that is already conducted on entrants suspected of having COVID-19 will be mandatory for all people arriving from mainland China. Those who test positive will be quarantined for seven days at designated facilities and their samples will be used for genome analysis. The measure begins Friday, just as Japan heads into year-end and New Year’s holidays marked by parties and travel, when infections are expected to rise.

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Kishida said China’s lack of information and transparency about the infections made it difficult to assess and figure out safety measures. There are huge discrepancies between information from central and local authorities, and between the government and private organizations, he said.

“There are growing worries in Japan,” Kishida said. “We have decided to take a temporary special measure to respond to the situation.”

Japan’s new measure aims to “prevent rapid increase of the infections in this country” and is not intended to stop global movement of the people, Kishida said. Japan will act flexibly while watching the development in China, he added, including halting the planned increase of flights between Japan and China “just to be safe.” Direct flights between the two countries will be limited to four major Japanese airports for the time being, government officials said.

“The measure is not going to affect Japan’s policy to continue with our ongoing transition toward a ‘with COVID’ lifestyle carefully and steadily while watching the infections at home,” Kishida said.

Japan earlier this year stopped requiring COVID-19 tests for entrants who had at least three COVID-19 shots — part of the country’s careful easing of measures after virtually closing its borders to foreign tourists for about two years.

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