Kishida told a press conference that tourists coming to Japan will no longer need to be on package tours with tour guides, as the country further eases its border controls, despite the nation being in the grip of a seventh wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, reports Xinhua news agency.
“We have seen international exchanges gaining traction in various parts of the world. We are raising the daily cap on new arrivals to 50,000 from September 7 to join the trend and make sure the benefits of the weak yen are felt,” Kishida said.
The Japanese government has been steadily easing its strict border controls, which for a long time were the most rigid among the G7 major developed nations.
The government’s ultra-strict border controls had drawn staunch criticism from the tourism sector, overseas educational institutions and business lobbies, among others, and Japan has been looking to bring its entrance protocols in line with other major economies.
The latest easing comes after the government said on August 24 that travellers coming to Japan will be exempt from taking Covid-19 tests before departure if they have received three vaccination shots.
The eased virus testing requirements will also come into effect on September 7, the government said.
Kishida further said that the rollout of an Omicron variant-specific vaccine will be brought forward from October, with government sources saying inoculations could begin in late September.
The country, however, is still grappling with a seventh wave of the pandemic and record cases, as the highly transmissible BA.5 Omicron subvariant of the virus continues to run rampant nationwide.
Despite the high infection rate, the government has not declared a Covid state of emergency and has not instituted any anti-virus restrictions as was the case when infections had previously surged.
Kishida himself tested positive for Covid on August 21 and since then had been working from his official residence and attending meetings online.
Having recovered from the virus, the Japanese leader resumed his official duties in person on Wednesday.