Japan's health ministry says it will tighten entry restrictions on travelers from South Africa in response to the spread there of a relatively highly contagious variant of the new coronavirus. The ministry officials say that the stepped-up measures will take effect on Saturday.
They say Japan will refuse new entrants from South Africa for the time being. They added Japanese and non-Japanese who have residential status in Japan will be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days when they enter the country.
Those travelers are currently exempted from quarantine under certain conditions. The officials also say from December 26 Japanese nationals returning from South Africa will be asked to provide proof that they have been tested within 72 hours of leaving the country.
The health ministry has already put similar measures in place for people arriving from Britain, where a new variant of the virus is spreading.
The ministry will also ask all entrants from South Africa and Britain to do a second coronavirus antigen test during their 14-days quarantine. All the entrants are asked to stay in hotels the authorities have prepared.
The ministry also says it has asked airlines to stop accepting new reservations for flights arriving from Britain for a week, and keep the number of passengers in check after the week.
The Japanese authorities will also ask all entrants who had been in Australia up to 14 days prior to arriving in Japan to take tests. Cases of the new variant have been also found in Australia.