Japan plans pre-entry TB checks for some foreigners

Kyodo News

Posted at Nov 17 2023 04:18 PM

Japan plans to introduce mandatory pre-arrival tuberculosis screening for people from some countries planning mid- to long-term stays from next fiscal year, health minister Keizo Takemi said Thursday.

The targeted countries are expected to be China, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines and Vietnam, with most foreign nationals diagnosed with the infectious disease while in Japan coming from those six nations, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The screening requirement will apply to those who hold citizenship of the countries and normally reside in them and who plan to stay longer than three months in Japan for such purposes as study or work. They will be obliged to provide evidence that they are not infected with tuberculosis prior to their arrival or will be denied entry.

"We are making final arrangements to start the system in the next fiscal year," Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Takemi told a session of a House of Councillors committee. Japanese fiscal years begin in April.

According to the source, the system is likely to be introduced starting with countries that have finished preparations for the tests.

The Japanese government was previously considering introducing the mandatory tuberculosis screening system around the opening of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, which took place in 2021, but the plan was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

While tuberculosis is curable and preventable, a total of 1.3 million people died from the disease in 2022 and it is the second biggest infectious killer after COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization.

In Japan, patients with tuberculosis fell for the first time below 10 to 9.2 per 100,000 people in 2021, putting the Asian nation in the WHO category of countries with a low incidence of the disease. The figure dropped to 8.2 in 2022, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

Tuberculosis is usually treated with antibiotics and can be fatal without treatment, according to the WHO.