Despite record Covid-19 cases in August, Japan will fully reopen to tourists

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Despite a record number of covid-19 cases in Japan this summer, the Japanese government plans to reopen the country to international tourists as soon as October, according to Nikkei Asia and the Fuji News Network.
Japan currently allows an extremely limited number of tourists with reservations with guided tourist groups into the country and has been among the slowest of all wealthy countries to open up, though China continues to have some of the strictest border controls.

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According to Channel News Asia, Japanese officials hope that the current weakness of the yen will drive tourists looking for good deals. According to the news outlet, deputy chief cabinet secretary Seiji Kihara stated as much on Sunday.

“We will review restrictions altogether. We have to carry it out in the not-so-distant future. Japan has seasonal attractions in fall and winter. We know there are a lot of people overseas who want to come to Japan.”

Deputy chief cabinet secretary Seiji Kihara
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But, when you consider how well Japan fared in the early days of the pandemic, all of this openness seems strange. The decision to reopen to international tourists comes as Japan recovers from the pandemic’s highest daily case count, when cases recently spiked in a way the country had never seen before.

According to Johns Hopkins University data, Japan reported over 81,000 new covid-19 cases and 104 new deaths on Sunday, down from the country’s record highs of over 200,000 new cases every day in late August. However, compare this to Japan’s relatively mild wave a year earlier in August 2021, when daily case numbers peaked at only 25,000 per day.

Of course, many argue that the real number that matters at this stage of the pandemic is the number of daily deaths from the disease, given that the vast majority of Japan has been immunized against covid-19. According to Johns Hopkins, approximately 81% of people in Japan have been vaccinated against covid, compared to 68% of Americans, the lowest among wealthy countries and trailing Sri Lanka and India. But there’s still a lot we don’t know about long-covid and what it means for humanity to contract covid-19 a couple times a year for the rest of our lives.

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