Japan’s government on Wednesday instructed airlines to halt sales of inbound tickets to the country through the end of December in light of the new Omicron coronavirus variant, only to reverse the ban less than 24 hours later after an outcry from its citizens.
Japan’s Prime Minister admitted that the announcement had created confusion, and Japanese citizens would be allowed to return home for the crucial year-end holiday season.
Here’s an excerpt from the Kyodo News:
The Japanese government on Thursday reversed its decision to completely halt bookings for inbound flights until the end of the year in the wake of criticism that the measure against the Omicron variant of the coronavirus goes too far.
Under the measure, Japanese citizens and foreign residents would have been unable to return for the holidays unless they already had reservations.
The government’s top spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, told a press conference the ministry has withdrawn its request to airlines not to take any bookings for inbound flights.
And from Japan Times:
The abrupt withdrawal of the request came after the government announced Wednesday that it had asked airlines to stop taking bookings for inbound flights in December, which startled citizens and foreign nationals, particularly those planning to fly during the New Year’s holiday period.
Japan Airlines Co. and All Nippon Airways Co. had reportedly complied with the request, which would have disrupted the travel plans for many citizens and foreign residents.
The move came as a surprise to not only the general public but also some government officials, as the transport ministry’s civil aviation bureau hastily made the decision without consulting transport minister Tetsuo Saito and other related officials.
There is a daily cap of 3,500 international arrivals that the airlines must observe not to exceed, down from 5,000. It would have been a pretty strict action not to allow Japanese citizens to buy tickets and essentially ban them from reentering the country until the end of the year.
Governments have been quickly developing various policies to curtail international arrivals until we better understand the new coronavirus variant.