"The World and Japan" Database (Project Leader: TANAKA Akihiko)
Database of Japanese Politics and International Relations
National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA), The University of Tokyo

[Title] Press Conference by the Prime Minister regarding Border Control Measures and Other Matters Related to the Omicron Strain of COVID-19

[Date] November 29, 2021
[Source] Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet
[Notes] Provisional translation
[Full text]

(Regarding border control measures related to the Omicron strain of COVID-19)

I strongly want to make a direct request to my fellow citizens for their cooperation as we take urgent countermeasures in response to the Omicron strain.

As the virulence of the Omicron strain, its ability to infect people who are already fully vaccinated, and so on are still being analyzed internationally by networks of experts, these analyses are not yet completed.

However, the WHO designated it a variant of concern on the 26th. Accordingly, as an emergency evacuation type of precautionary measure intended to avoid the worst-possible situation for Japan, we will first of all suspend entry into Japan by foreign nationals from anywhere globally beginning at midnight (0:00AM) on November 30.

And, regarding Japanese nationals and others returning to Japan from the 14 countries and regions where infections have been confirmed, in addition to the nine nations including South Africa, we will implement strict quarantine measures at designated facilities, in accordance with the risk of infection.

These are all provisional and extraordinary measures taken out of an abundance of caution until information on the Omicron strain becomes clarified to some extent.

I will add that Japan enjoys the highest rate of vaccination among the G7 nations and also has seen the least amount of time pass since the second dose of the vaccination was administered.

As for cooperation from the citizens towards restraining their behavior, including the wearing of masks, the state of affairs in Japan has been praised by the international community.

In my perception, Japan’s resistance to the risks associated with the Omicron strain is stronger than that of any other country in the world.

I call on all citizens to respond to this situation calmly.

We are carrying out political administration under the approach that we should respond to unknown risks with extreme caution.

As for any criticisms that Kishida is overly cautious even though the situation remains uncertain, I am fully prepared to shoulder all responsibility as we tackle this challenge.

I ask for the understanding of the citizens who will be inconvenienced as a result of these measures that account for unlikely possibilities. As for the specifics, I would like to have those in charge of administrative matters explain them once again. Thank you.

(On the information that one person entering Japan from the Republic of Namibia has tested positive for the Omicron strain of COVID-19)

I have been briefed that until now, 32 persons have entered Japan from the countries now subject to the ban on entry. I have received a report that among them, one person who entered Japan from Namibia is suspected of having contracted COVID-19. A genome analysis was performed immediately and the specifics of the case are now being investigated. I will have the persons in charge of administrative matters explain the details of this case, but those are the facts that have been reported to me. As you said, the genome analysis is currently in process, so no determination has yet been made about whether or not it is a case of the Omicron strain. I have heard that the genome analysis will take four or five days to complete.

(On whether or not consideration will be given to restarting entry into Japan for the purpose of tourism within 2021)

I believe that first of all we must squarely assess the current state of affairs and then respond in a flexible and agile manner, based on our understanding of the situation. In our current circumstances, experts are only just getting started in analyzing at the global level this strain’s degree of infectivity, whether or not the vaccine is effective against it, the degree to which patients tend to develop severe symptoms, and so on. We need to consider various responses after reliably confirming these aspects, but as we do so, fundamentally I consider it critical for us to respond to the situation in a flexible and agile manner. We will work hard to assess the situation.