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Hundreds of Japanese stranded overseas amid coronavirus travel curbs

Marines wearing protective masks as a precaution against the spread of the new coronavirus stand guard as a passenger waits to reschedule a canceled flight at a semi-closed airport, in Lima, Peru, on March 17, 2020. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Hundreds of Japanese nationals are currently stranded overseas due to travel restrictions meant to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Foreign Ministry said Thursday.

    A ministry official said he could not say precisely how many are stranded in total because the number is fluctuating as circumstances change, but that they are spread out over more than 60 countries and regions.

    As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads across North America, Europe and other parts of the world, many countries have closed off their borders and imposed lockdowns on their citizens.

    Some 260 Japanese nationals are stuck in Peru, where international flights have been grounded since March 17. Most are tourists and are hoping to return on a chartered flight being arranged by a travel agency.

    Another 120 have become unable to return from Uzbekistan, mostly expatriates. They may be able to take a chartered plane back to Japan in early April, another ministry official said.

    Other countries and regions include Cote d'Ivoire, Mongolia, Saudi Arabia, with less than 10 Japanese stranded in most cases.

    "The circumstances are different for each country. In some cases, they can cross over into a neighboring country and fly home from there," Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told an upper house committee meeting.

    "We are looking at options for how to bring these people back safely."

    The ministry on Wednesday raised its travel advisory to Level 2 on its four-point scale, meaning it advises against all nonessential international travel.

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