Coronavirus Leads Japan to Lock Borders, Shutting Out Foreign Workers

Coronavirus Leads Japan to Lock Borders, Shutting Out Foreign Workers

Coronavirus Leads Japan to Lock Borders, Shutting Out Foreign Workers

Coronavirus Leads Japan to Lock Borders, Shutting Out Foreign Workers

But even as they moved to loosen restrictions, officials added 17 countries to the re-entry ban list and instituted a rule requiring that travelers take a coronavirus test and receive a negative result no more than 72 hours before departing for Japan. That may be impossible for residents who are stuck in countries where tests are in short supply or results come slowly.

The Asahi Shimbun, a leading newspaper, reported that Japan would initially allow an additional 500 foreigners a day to re-enter. That low figure, as well as the uncertainty over how the loosening would be carried out, has led people like Keifer Castigador, an engineer from the Philippines who left Japan in late February, to be wary of trying to return.

Mr. Castigador went to the Philippines to help his wife recover from an emergency cesarean section. He tried to return in May, when Japan announced that it was reopening to residents who had qualified for a humanitarian exemption. He confirmed his status with Japanese officials, but when he tried to re-enter the country, he was turned away, he said.

He was held in detention for a night at his own expense and returned to the Philippines, he said, where he had to go into quarantine. He is now waiting to see how the new rules play out before he tries to return.

“We’re sitting it out this time because it was too much for us last time,” he said.

For Mr. Mazziotta, the English teacher, the experience has left an indelible impression. He has applied to the Japanese Embassy in South Africa for permission to return under the new rules, but has not yet heard back. His Japanese work visa runs out in September, and with no clarity about when he will be allowed to return, he is beginning to lose hope.

“Even if I can go back,” he said, “I wonder if the mountain that has been built is too difficult to climb.”

Makiko Inoue contributed reporting.


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