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Japan receives mere 2,900 foreign travelers in April

Few people walk near Kiyomizu temple in Kyoto on May 19, 2020, as the western Japan prefecture remains under a state of emergency over the coronavirus outbreak. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan received an estimated 2,900 foreign travelers in April, down 99.9 percent from a year earlier, amid the coronavirus pandemic, government data showed Wednesday.

It is the first time that the monthly figure has slipped below 10,000 since 1964, when the government began compiling such statistics. The percentage of decline was also the largest ever, according to the Japan Tourism Agency.

The previous low for monthly foreign visitors was 17,543 recorded in February 1964.

The figure fell in April for the seventh consecutive month since October, when a significant drop in visitors from South Korea and a devastating typhoon halted the trend of increasing numbers of visitors from overseas.

Bilateral ties between Tokyo and Seoul soured over the issue of wartime labor during Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula between 1910 and 1945.

The government is seeking to boost domestic tourism by subsidizing a portion of travel expenses once the coronavirus outbreak is brought under control.

The 1.35 trillion yen ($12.5 billion) program could start in July if novel coronavirus infections subside soon, Hiroshi Tabata, chief of the agency, told a press conference.

As travel restrictions have been put in place globally, the number of Japanese nationals who left the country in April plunged 99.8 percent from a year earlier to 3,900, according to the data from the agency.

Japan expanded its travel restrictions in early April, bringing the number of countries from which foreign nationals were barred entry to about 70, including all parts of China and South Korea, as well as the United States and most of Europe.

The number of visitors from China dived to 200 in April from 726,132 a year earlier, and those from South Korea dropped to 300 from 566,624, according to the data.

The number of visitors from Taiwan and the United States also decreased to 300 each from 403,467 and 170,247, respectively, in April last year.

Fewer than 10 people each from Italy and Spain, which have been hit hard by the coronavirus, visited Japan last month, according to the data.

The accumulated number of foreign visitors between January and April stood at 3.94 million, down 64.1 percent from a year earlier, the data showed.

Japan's entry ban aimed at preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus was expanded to about 100 countries this month.

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