Since the implementation of Japan’s travel ban, foreigners and businesses have been struggling immensely. The border restrictions, which were put in place to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus variant, COVID-19, have had a devastating impact on both groups.
For example, Michael Mroczek, the head of the European Business Council of Japan, has stated that “the most obvious effect is that foreign and domestic companies alike will not be able to bring in essential personnel.”
This means that positions might not be filled or that top management will have to manage the company from outside of Japan. In addition, Davide Rossi, co-founder of education company Go! Go! Nihon, has said that “I continuously receive messages from students that have lost two years of their lives due to the continuous ban.”
These individuals are not able to recover their tuition fee or time lost. The mental toll has been especially severe for international students hoping to study in Japan. Rossi stated, “They’re not able to recover their tuition fee or time lost, and are often heavily depressed and without funds to study elsewhere.”
One reason why Japan is hesitant about re-opening its borders is because it has limited exposure compared to other countries. Stephen Nagy, a visiting fellow at the Japan Institute of International Affairs think-tank, said he believes that Tokyo’s hesitancy towards reopening has been exacerbated by its lack of exposure.
“With COVID rates so low at this stage, it seems politically impossible to not take an ultra-conservative approach to border control for fear of spreading the new variant,” he said.
The WHO has called for “rational” measures to tackle the new variant, but has criticized blanket travel bans.
Ryan stated that he found Japan’s latest ban “hard to understand” from a scientific standpoint. He asked rhetorically, “Does the virus read your passport? Does the virus know your nationality or where you are legally resident?”
For people like Tania Sofia, who is hoping to get into Japan with her Japanese fiancé, uncertainty is always present. After all these years of struggle, people are still unsure if they will be able to enter the country anytime soon due to COVID-19.