Health Alert – U.S. Embassy Tokyo (April 29, 2020)

Location: Japan
Date: April 29, 2020

Japan continues to experience a steady increase in COVID-19 cases. To reduce the spread of the virus, the Government of Japan has asked residents to avoid crossing prefectural borders for non-essential travel, including during the Golden Week holiday from April 29 to May 6. The U.S. Embassy strongly urges U.S. citizens to comply with all measures under the state of emergency declaration and announced by local officials. In particular, we urge all U.S. citizens to stay at home during the Golden Week holiday period, observe the government’s request not to cross prefectural borders, and to limit all non-essential outings. We also recommend using masks or cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, maintaining at least six feet of distance between yourself and others, and avoiding public transportation during peak hours.

Tokyo Governor Koike has designated the 12-day period from April 25 through May 6 as “stay at home week,” explaining that remaining at home to the maximum extent possible during this period will be critical if Japan is going to achieve the government’s goal of an 80 percent reduction in people-to-people contact. Mayors of several towns near Tokyo have requested that roads to their towns be blocked in order to prevent tourism during the holiday period, and several roads leading to public beaches in coastal areas have been closed or are restricted. Access to other public recreational facilities such as parks and nature areas have already, or may soon be, prohibited. Several shrines throughout Tokyo are now closed to the public.

Across Japan, prefectural governments are taking similar steps to reduce travel and tourism. Transportation companies are limiting or canceling service, and many recreation sites and facilities have closed. In the current circumstances, road closures and/or alteration in public transportation (bus, rail, air) schedules may occur with little or no notice. The Governor of Okinawa requested a suspension of tourism throughout Okinawa during Golden Week. More than 700 local businesses are cooperating with the governor’s request by closing or greatly restricting access. Virtually all tourist destinations are closed, including the Okinawa Churami Aquarium, Shuri Castle Park, and the Okinawa Peace Memorial Park. Public transportation – to include flights, buses, ferries, the Naha Monorail, and taxi and car rental services – are either canceled or operating with substantial reductions in service. A large majority of hotels and restaurants are similarly affected. Please see this online page.

The Government of Hokkaido and the city of Sapporo announced a joint state of emergency for April 20 through May 6, requesting that citizens refrain from non-essential outings, including local outings, travel in and out of Sapporo, and travel between prefectures, especially during Golden Week. They are also requesting that many shopping, entertainment and restaurant facilities close during this time period. Officials at Chitose airport in Sapporo are conducting temperature checks on arriving passengers and asking those with fevers to take appropriate measures. In the Kansai region, virtually all tourist destinations are closed. A list of just some of these closures can be found online here.

State of Emergency in Japan

Prime Minister Abe has declared a state of emergency covering the entire country that will last at least through May 6. The Prime Minister outlined measures to help prevent the spread of coronavirus and asked people to avoid closed spaces, crowded places, and close-contact settings. According to press reports, the Prime Minister’s target of a 70-80 percent reduction in person-to-person contact nationwide is not being met, and he has called on residents to reduce their outings further.

Specific measures taken under the state of emergency will vary by prefecture, as the prefectural governors will issue instructions and requests.

U.S. Mission Japan personnel continue to follow United States and Japanese government recommended practices promoting social distancing and minimizing non-essential travel.

U.S. Mission Japan staff have been advised to avoid public transportation during peak hours, and to follow Government of Japan guidance to refrain from crossing prefectural borders unless absolutely necessary.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated their guidance to include six new symptoms of COVID-19. We encourage U.S. citizens to familiarize themselves with the information, which can be found on the CDC’s website.

Reduction in International Flights

International flights are currently available in Japan, but service continues to diminish. Only six percent of pre-COVID capacity between Japan and the United States (including Guam) remains in service, and further reductions are scheduled. Direct flights between the United States and Japan are currently only available from Tokyo’s Narita and Haneda airports. U.S. citizens who wish to return to the United States should make commercial arrangements to do so immediately unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period. The U.S. government does not anticipate staging repatriation flights in Japan. U.S. citizens who reside abroad should avoid all international travel.

Suspension of Routine Passport and Citizenship Services

The U.S. Department of State has suspended processing of routine passport and citizenship services. Until further notice, we are only able to issue limited validity emergency passports. Because of this suspension, we are unable to issue Consular Reports of Birth Abroad for infants and children. However, we can document the child’s citizenship with an emergency passport and strongly encourage families to apply for such documentation. To request an appointment for an emergency passport, please contact the Embassy or consulate nearest you for assistance.

Resources in Japan

Below are sources of local COVID-19 information in English. This list is not exhaustive:

U.S. citizens should closely monitor trusted local news sources and local authorities’ communications for updates and information.

Japanese immigration officials announced new measures to reduce congestion in waiting rooms. They have extended the period of application for certain types of visa extensions and residency applications, and increased the waiting time for decisions in certain cases. More information can be found online here.

The Japan National Tourism Organization maintains up-to-date information on screening and quarantine measures for travelers. It also operates a 24/7 visitor hotline, available in English. To call from Japan: 050-3816-2787; from overseas: +81-50-3816-2787.

The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare also has a 24/7 hotline at +81-3-3595-2176 with English-speaking operators, and has a Q&A on the new measures.

The Association of Medical Doctors of Asia Medical Information Center are operating a hotline to assist foreign nationals in Japan with questions about COVID-19. It is available from 10:00 to 17:00, and can be reached at 03-6233-9266. More information can be found here.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government launched a multilingual call center on COVID-19 for foreign residents. They can be reached by phone from 10:00 to 17:00, Monday through Friday, at 0120-296-004. Callers should note that the initial recording is in Japanese, but if you hold the line you can be assisted in English.

Global Level 4 Health Advisory – Do Not Travel: The Department of State has issued a Global Level 4 Health Advisory for COVID-19.

CDC Travel Notice for Japan: On March 21, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Level 3 Warning (Avoid Nonessential Travel) for COVID-19 in Japan.

Actions to Take:

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