#COVID-19: Comparing provinces with other countries 2 March Update; Japan impact and policy changes

Overall decline in infections and deaths as omicron wave passes. The big news is that numbers from China have shown a significant increase in the past week, from 134,000 to 315,000 infections and from 4,936 to 5,380 deaths, perhaps reflecting suppression of numbers pre-and post-Olympics.

Vaccinations: Some minor shifts but convergence among provinces and countries. Canadians fully vaccinated 82.2 percent, compared to Japan 79.4 percent, UK 73.3 percent and USA 65.7 percent.

Immigration source countries are also converging: China fully vaccinated 88.3 percent (numbers have not budged over past four weeks), India 57.9 percent, Nigeria 4 percent, Pakistan 45.7 percent, Philippines 58.4 percent.

Trendline Charts:

Infections: Ongoing signs of omicron and other variants plateauing.

Deaths: Quebec continues to plateau with moderate increases in other provinces but G7 still not plateauing.

Vaccinations: No major relative changes.

Weekly

Infections: No relative changes. Infections per million in China have increased from 96 to 226 per million after relatively flat for over six months

Deaths: Major change again is with respect to China with deaths per million increasing from 3.5 to 3.9. Sweden is now ahead of Quebec.

COVID-19: New Immigration Rules Crack Open Japan’s Closed Door

In early December 2021, when the highly contagious Omicron variant started spreading globally, Japan slammed its border shut. In fact, except for the first months of the pandemic, it adopted a harsher border policy than during previous infection waves.

The country would essentially remain closed to all non-Japanese citizens other than existing residents.

Among the many stranded travelers were an estimated 150,000 international students who had enrolled in Japanese universities, but never made it into Japan after the borders closed in March 2020. Also affected were business people, foreign specialists and technical interns, the term used for foreign nationals who work on farms, in fishing, food processing, hotels, nursing homes or other industries faced with a serious labor shortage.

Japan’s isolationist approach was in tune with only a few other countries, such as China and Hong Kong. Australia and New Zealand  ーwhich previously had some of the strictest border rules, stopping even their own citizens from returning homeー have recently reversed their two year long isolation.

The Japanese government has been a lot more cautious. In the wake of criticism by industry leaders and academics it has now relaxed some of the entry rules. However, its general policy to ban most new entries has not changed. Tourists still remain shut out.

Nevertheless, there is some welcome positive news going into effect from March 2022.

Raised Cap on Daily Entries

In a first sign of hope, the current limit on arrivals at the Japanese border, capped to 3,500 (roughly the passenger load of 17 airplanes), has been raised to 5,000 from March 1.

Vaccination Status Matters

One of the biggest changes is that starting on March 1, Japan will distinguish between vaccinated and non-vaccinated travelers. This is a significant step for a country that was previously disinterested in vaccination status upon entry and has not adopted any kind of vaccination passport to use domestically.

Fully vaccinated travelers coming from high risk countries can isolate at home for seven days. This period can be shortened to three full days with a negative covid-test on day three.

Fully vaccinated arrivals from low risk countries have no quarantine obligation whatsoever.

Fully Vaccinated Means Three Shots

An arriving person only qualifies as vaccinated with proof of three shots. And the vaccines used need to have been approved by Japan.

Currently, there are only four approved shots: The COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer, Moderna, Astra-Zeneca and Johnson & Johnson. Plus, the only recognized third shots are for Moderna and Pfizer.

…. New Visa Applications

Last not least among the big changes, schools and businesses can now apply for new visas on behalf of business partners, workers and students, if they pledge to monitor that the incoming person will follow any necessary quarantine rules and other measures imposed.

A new website has been set up by the Ministry of Health to facilitate applications, named ERFS or “Entrants, Returnees Follow-up System”. Once the application is approved foreign entrants will get a Certificate of Eligibility (COE), a necessary step to get a visa stamped into the passport at a Japanese embassy or consulate abroad.

Only organizations, not individuals can apply through this website. If you have a COE that has recently expired or is about to do so, a new policy on the period of validity for a certificate of eligibility may be of help as some COE holders may be eligible for an extension.

It is not clear if people who currently have an unexpired COE have to apply.

It also remains to be seen how quickly new visas will be issued and what kind of priorities will be given to whom. After two years of closed borders there is a significant backlog of old cases.

As a cap of daily arrivals remains in place, even though it has now been lifted to 5,000 persons daily, many people will still be in for a long wait.

Source: COVID-19: New Immigration Rules Crack Open Japan’s Closed Door

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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