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Health Alert – U.S. Embassy Tokyo (April 3, 2020)
April 3, 2020

Japan is experiencing a significant increase in COVID-19 cases. Over the past 72 hours, more than 650 individuals across the country have tested positive, an increase of approximately 200 cases per day. On April 2, Japan saw the largest increase in cases since the outbreak of the virus. A growing number of medical and political leaders across the country are expressing concern that a surge in cases is imminent. The U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Joe Young issued a video message April 2 to U.S. citizens in Japan in light of the global spread of COVID-19.

If U.S. citizens wish to return to the United States, they should make arrangements to do so now. U.S. citizens who live in the United States but are currently in Japan should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period.

Capacity of Japan’s Health Care System

As compared to the number of positive cases and hospitalizations in the United States and Europe, the number of reported COVID-19 cases in Japan remains relatively low. The Japanese Government’s decision to not test broadly makes it difficult to accurately assess the COVID-19 prevalence rate. Our diplomatic mission is in touch with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and continues to carefully monitor the capacity of Japan’s health care system in Tokyo as well as other locations including Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka, Sapporo, and Naha. While we have confidence in Japan’s health care system today, we believe a significant increase in COVID-19 cases makes it difficult to predict how the system will be functioning in the coming weeks. In the event of a spike in cases, U.S. citizens with pre-existing medical conditions may not be able to receive the medical care they have grown accustomed to in Japan prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Border Control Measures

Japan is barring admission to travelers who have recently visited any country that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has designated “Level 3” for infectious disease concerns, which includes the United States. Travelers from the United States are not permitted to enter Japan and should not board flights. For details and exemptions, please refer to:

  • The Japan National Tourism Organization’s website.
  • An April 3, 2020 Ministry of Justice document that describes “special exceptional circumstances” and specific rules that apply to foreign nationals who are permanent residents of Japan or immediate family members of Japanese citizens.
  • Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website on strengthened border control and visa restrictions put in place due to COVID-19.

Decrease in International Flights

As of April 3, only 11 percent of the pre-COVID-19 flight capacity from Japan to the United States remains in operation. While we cannot predict what will happen next, it is safe to assume that Japan’s entry restrictions will further reduce flight availability in the near- and medium-term. One of the sobering realities of the current crisis is that a decrease in flights to the United States may mean getting back to the U.S. for a family emergency in a timely manner could become more difficult or even impossible.

U.S. citizens who are considering returning to the United States are urged to work with their airlines to make travel arrangements while limited commercial flights are still available. Due to a reduction in customer demand, commercial aviation networks between the United States and Japan continue to diminish. Travelers currently in Japan seeking return fights to the United States should immediately consult with their air carrier(s) regarding possible flight rescheduling and/or cancellations.

At this time, Japanese authorities advise that passengers transiting Tokyo’s Narita or Haneda airports without clearing immigration will still be allowed to proceed to their onward destinations in other countries. Passengers will not be permitted to transit between airports or transfer from an international flight to a domestic flight.

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.

Residents of Tokyo, should check the Tokyo Metropolitan Government website for information in English on COVID-19.

All U.S. Mission Japan facilities remain open and staffed and U.S. Mission Japan personnel are following United States and Japanese government recommendations regarding social distancing and minimizing non-essential travel.

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: