Health Alert – December 4, 2020

Location: Japan
Date: December 4, 2020

COVID-19 in Japan

The U.S. Embassy and consulates continue to monitor COVID-19 conditions in Japan closely. Case numbers continue to rise throughout the country, and media reports indicate that healthcare capacity in several regions, including Tokyo, Osaka, and Hokkaido, is becoming strained both in terms of available critical care bed space and sufficient numbers of medical personnel. The national government and some prefectural governments have begun announcing new COVID-19 mitigation measures, including discouraging travel to certain areas with high case numbers and encouraging limited hours for bars and other entertainment venues. The “Go To Travel” campaign now excludes travel to Sapporo and Osaka, while Tokyo Governor Koike urged residents over 65 or with preexisting medical conditions to refrain from participating in the program. U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to monitor changes to prefectural government alerts, especially when considering travel across prefectures,and should continue to follow measures introduced by Japanese national and local government officials designed to mitigate COVID-19 outbreaks in their areas.

On December 3, officials in Osaka raised the prefecture’s health alert to red – the highest level – indicating that the city’s hospital bed occupancy rate for serious cases will soon reach 70%. They urge residents to limit non-essential outings and to observe COVID precautions if they must go out. In response, U.S. Consulate General Osaka is taking steps to reduce public services and in-office staffing levels in order to minimize the risk of COVID-19 exposure. Please check the website for more information.

Aichi Prefecture raised its COVID alert on November 19 from yellow to orange, the second highest of four levels, in response to a third wave of infections that started to impact the region in late October. Residents are asked to exercise heightened caution and to avoid non-urgent travel to Tokyo, Osaka and Hokkaido.

The Government of Japan has renewed calls for residents to wear masks and take other common-sense COVID-19 mitigation precautions. Government officials at all levels have particularly urged mask wearing while dining out in restaurants. Diners should only remove their masks for short periods of time to eat or drink, and wear masks while having conversations. Residents should also continue to avoid the “Three Cs:” closed spaces, crowded spaces, and close-contact settings.

In advance of the holiday season, Governor Koike identified “five keeps” people can follow to minimize COVID-19 exposure risk while dining out or in their homes:

  • Keep groups small
  • Keep meals short
  • Keep voices down
  • Keep portions separate
  • Keep rooms ventilated and disinfected

U.S. citizens are strongly urged to continue to take personal health measures to protect themselves, including socially 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.

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.

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.

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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