Health Alert – December 22, 2020

Location: Japan
Date: December 22, 2020

COVID-19 in Japan

The U.S. Embassy and consulates continue to monitor closely COVID-19 conditions in Japan. Case numbers continue to rise throughout the country. Several areas, including Tokyo, are posting record or near-record numbers daily. Prefectural and local governments indicate that healthcare capacity, including critical care bed space and medical personnel staffing, is becoming strained. On December 17, Tokyo Governor Koike raised Tokyo’s health care alert system to its highest level for the first time since ending the state of emergency in May, indicating that the government task force believes hospitals could soon be overwhelmed. According to press reports, the Tokyo government is concerned that as many as 80 percent of the city’s hospitals and clinics will close during the New Year period, which will further constrain health care capacity.

The national government and many prefectural governments have begun announcing new COVID-19 mitigation measures. The national government announced that the “Go To Travel” campaign will be suspended from December 28 through January 11. Governor Koike continues to urge residents to minimize outings and reconsider traveling during the New Year period.

The U.S. Embassy strongly urges U.S. citizens throughout Japan to monitor changes to prefectural government alerts, especially when considering travel across prefectures. U.S. citizens should continue to follow all measures introduced by Japanese national and local government officials to mitigate COVID-19 outbreaks in their areas.

The Government of Japan has renewed calls for residents to wear masks and take other common-sense COVID-19 mitigation precautions. Residents should continue to avoid the “Three Cs:” closed spaces, crowded spaces, and close-contact settings.

U.S. citizens are strongly urged to continue to take personal health measures to protect themselves, including social distancing, wearing masks, and avoiding crowded areas with poor ventilation. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strongly recommend that U.S. citizens get flu shots to prevent a major flu outbreak. To reduce the spread of infection, U.S. citizens should consider minimizing their travel over the upcoming New Year holiday period.

U.S. Mission Japan personnel continue to follow practices recommended by the U.S. and Japanese Governments, including social distancing and mask wearing, to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The United States Government does not plan to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to private U.S. citizens overseas. Please follow host country developments and guidelines for COVID-19 vaccination. According to media reporting, the Japanese Government intends to pursue expedited approval of vaccines. U.S. citizens in Japan should consult with their medical providers.

United States Forces Japan bases have instituted a number of restrictions based on local conditions. Many restrictions are specific to individual bases or areas. For more information, please contact base command officials.

The U.S. Congress passed a stimulus bill including an additional series of direct payments. The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo has no insight into the processing of these payments and cannot intervene with banks which decline to process paper checks. For information or assistance with these payments, please contact the Internal Revenue Service.

Travel Restrictions

Japanese government travel restrictions remain in place that prevent most U.S. citizens from entering the country. Japan continues to modify its policies to facilitate certain kinds of travel. For complete information on travel restrictions, as well as requirements for reentry, please consult the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Ministry of Justice.

Travel for tourism and most other short-term purposes is still not permitted, and there is no indication that this will change in the near term.

The U.S. Embassy strongly urges any U.S. citizens considering travel to Japan to carefully review the information available from the Government of Japan. Please note these regulations are subject to change with little notice. The U.S. Embassy’s ability to intervene on behalf of travelers denied boarding at their point of embarkation or denied entry upon arrival to Japan is extremely limited, and those travelers denied entry at Japanese ports of entry will likely be immediately reboarded on flights back to the United States.

U.S. military members traveling under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) have different travel regulations governing their entry into Japan. They should check with their command before commencing any travel to ensure they comply with all necessary requirements. The U.S. Embassy and consulates cannot answer questions about SOFA travel.

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