Japan suspends visas in Philippines, 10 other countries amid COVID-19 spread

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 27 2020 02:41 PM | Updated as of Mar 27 2020 05:57 PM

Visitors wearing protective face masks following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) look at blooming cherry blossoms at Ueno park in Tokyo, Japan March 22, 2020. Issei Kato, Reuters/File

MANILA - Japan announced Friday it was suspending visas issued in the Philippines and 10 other countries in Southeast Asia, Middle East and Africa until the end of April due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Japanese foreign ministry said. 

From Saturday, some 750,000 visas granted in the following countries will not be valid in the meantime, according to the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA): 

  • Philippines
  • Indonesia
  • Singapore 
  • Thailand
  • Brunei
  • Vietnam
  • Malaysia
  • Israel
  • Qatar
  • Bahrain
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo 

In an advisory, MOFA said the "new measures to strengthen border measures" in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic were decided on March 26. 

"These measures were decided amidst the further spreading of coronavirus in foreign countries, to take proactive measures including border controls, aligning with measures taken by foreign countries, in order to prevent the further spread of infections," it said. 

The visa restrictions will be effective from March 28 until the end of April, but MOFA said "the implementation period can be renewed."

Under the measure, bearers of single or multiple-entry visas issued by March 27 to travelers from the 11 countries "will not be permitted to enter Japan" starting March 28. 

Visa exemption for travelers from the 11 countries are also suspended. 

Also barred from entry are "those who possess a passport issued by the countries for which visa exemption measures are suspended (including APEC Business Travel Card holders) and intend to enter Japan without obtaining a visa."

Japanese nationals who arrive home from the 11 countries starting Saturday must undergo a 14-day quarantine "at a location designated by the quarantine station chief." 

The government earlier invalidated visas issued in 40 countries, including China, South Korea, Iran, Egypt and most European nations, according to NHK. 

The visa cancellation for China and South Korea, originally set until the end of March, was extended throughout April, the report added. 

Coronavirus infections in Japan have climbed to more than 1,400 nationwide with 47 deaths, excluding those from a cruise ship that was quarantined last month. Globally, infections have topped half a million people and deaths at more than 24,000.

Tokyo, the Japanese capital of nearly 14 million people, has not declared an emergency or a full-blown lockdown. However, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike on Wednesday urged residents to refrain from non-essential, non-urgent outings through April 12. 

Luzon, the Philippines' largest island that is home to about half of the country's 100 million people, is on lockdown until April 12. 

Philippine authorities as of Thursday confirmed 707 cases of COVID-19. The tally, which could further spike with the arrival of new testing kits, included 45 deaths and 28 patients who recovered, said the health department. 

-- With reports from NHK and Reuters