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Arrivals from S. Korea, China to Japan 'resigned' to self-isolation as new measures begin

Passengers from a plane from South Korea are seen answering questionnaires and being spoken to by quarantine officials about the request they undergo two weeks of self-isolation, at Narita International Airport in Chiba Prefecture on March 9, 2020. (Mainichi/Koichiro Tezuka)

As part of attempts to toughen up border controls against the new coronavirus, the Japanese government has from March 9 put in measures to ask people entering the country from China and South Korea to voluntarily self-isolate at home or at hotels for 14 days after arrival.

    At just past 8 a.m. on March 9 at Narita International Airport in Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo, the first flight from Seoul subject to the new entry controls landed. The eight people who disembarked provided health cards and filled-in questionnaires asking them about their physical condition, their history of any close proximity with infected persons, and for contact details.

    Quarantine officials checked them for symptoms including fever or coughing, and those without any signs of infection were asked to self-isolate for 14 days, and refrain from using public transport.

    An American man, 25, who lives in Tokyo and works in the clothing industry said that he had visited South Korea for work, and that he was resigned to being picked up by a friend and then spending the period at home. A French woman in her 20s who had arrived in Japan as a tourist after a trip to South Korea looked perplexed and said she would have to comply with the request despite difficulties.

    Quarantine officials attended to their duties while wearing protective gowns, transparent faceguards, and gloves. According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare's Narita Airport Quarantine Station, the responsibility for costs incurred using transport and staying in hospitality are down to the individuals arriving. People without confirmed accommodation on arrival will be shown hotels near to the airport.

    Passengers who disembarked from a plane coming from South Korea are seen submitting required documents to quarantine officials at Kansai International Airport in Osaka Prefecture on March 9, 2020. (Mainichi/Ryoichi Mochizuki)

    Quarantine officials are also asking for people to avoid using trains, buses, taxis and other forms of public transport. They also want arrivals to measure their temperatures every day, and to wash their hands thoroughly.

    On the same day at Kansai International Airport in Osaka Prefecture, western Japan, quarantine officials set up a special booth for people arriving from China and South Korea. A flight from Incheon, South Korea, landed at around 8:30 a.m. carrying just three passengers; all of them were asked how they would be getting to their accommodation in Japan and other details by quarantine officials.

    A 27-year-old South Korean man studying Japanese in the city of Osaka and who temporarily returned to South Korea told the Mainichi Shimbun that he plans to enroll at a specialist school in Japan this spring to fulfill his dream of becoming a chef. He said that he thought if he stayed in South Korea, he may never be able to enter Japan, and accepted to isolate himself. He then waited for a South Korean friend to pick him up from the airport.

    Two second year university students attending the same institution in Osaka Prefecture were on a trip to South Korea for two nights and three days, and were originally set to return on March 8, but missed their flight and ended up spending a night at the airport before returning to the new measures on March 9.

    One of the students, aged 19 and from the Osaka Prefecture city of Sakai, said, "I didn't imagine before we went on the trip that there would be self-isolation. The unusual situation made me scared." The other woman, aged 20 and from the prefectural city of Hirakata, said, "I won't be able to keep my promises to my part-time job or my friends, and I feel so bad that I'm going to cause problems for other people." The two then waited for their families to come and pick them up.

    (Japanese original by Tadakazu Nakamura, Narita Bureau, and Yasutoshi Tsurumi, Izumisano Resident's Bureau)

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