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Postponed Tokyo Olympics to start July 23, 2021: Organizing committee

Japan to ban entry from 18 European countries, Iran

Arriving passengers (in seats) fill out forms as quarantine officials watch on at Narita International Airport near Tokyo, on March 21, 2020. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan will impose an entry ban on foreign travelers from 18 European countries and Iran to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said Tuesday.

    The measures would be the broadest set of border controls implemented by Japan so far amid the spreading pandemic, which has killed more than 15,000 people worldwide and threatens to trigger a global recession and derail this summer's Tokyo Olympics.

    Motegi also said Japan will likely extend its suspension of visas issued to Chinese and South Korean nationals past the March 31 deadline because the coronavirus remains a threat.

    The countries to be subject to the entry ban are Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Iran, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, and the Vatican.

    Foreign travelers who have been to any of these countries within 14 days of arriving in Japan will be turned away. The measures will be finalized soon by a government task force chaired by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a government source said.

    The Foreign Ministry on Monday issued a warning against going to these countries, raising the travel advisory on them to level 3 in a move that has become a de facto step toward an entry ban.

    "Barring special circumstances, there won't be any exceptions" to this rule, Motegi told a press conference Tuesday.

    Japan has already closed its doors to some regions in Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Iran, in addition to the whole of Iceland and San Marino as well as parts of China and South Korea.

    Regarding the suspension of visas issued to Chinese and South Korean nationals, Motegi said the measure will remain in place "unless the coronavirus miraculously disappears from the world tomorrow."

    "I don't imagine that it will, though," he added.

    Japan suspended the visas, including those issued to residents of Hong Kong and Macau, on March 9 and has asked all other travelers from the two Asian countries to self-quarantine for 14 days after arrival.

    The decision has dealt a big blow to Japan's economy, reliant on tourists from its closest neighbors. It also drew a strong backlash from South Korea, which called the measures "unscientific" and "unfair" and quickly retaliated with similar steps.

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