Japan’s COVID-19 entry ban spurs demonstrations around the world

Demonstrations against Japan’s tight border restrictions on nonresident foreign nationals, implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19, have been staged in several countries, with people urging the government to reconsider the measures they say are not based on science.

Protests initiated by “Stop Japan’s Ban,” a group launched on Twitter, began Tuesday, as foreign exchange students and business people barred from entering the country gathered at various locations, including in front of Japanese embassies in countries such as Mongolia, Poland, India and Malaysia.

The strict entry ban has been in place since Nov. 30, with Japan confirming its first case of the omicron variant later that day. Earlier this month, the entry ban was further extended until the end of February.

More protests are in the works this month in countries such as Germany, Austria, Spain and Argentina, as well as in Tokyo in front of the Prime Minister’s Office in February, according to organizers.

Demonstrators say most prospective exchange students have had COVID-19 booster shots and would adhere to necessary anti-virus measures when in Japan, and urged the administration of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to tell them clearly when all foreign nationals would be allowed to enter again.

A Belgian woman protests Japan's entry ban on nonresident foreign nationals. | STOP JAPAN BAN / VIA KYODO
A Belgian woman protests Japan’s entry ban on nonresident foreign nationals. | STOP JAPAN BAN / VIA KYODO

Some participants in the demonstrations have also uploaded pictures of placards indicating how many days they had been stuck in limbo.

Jade Barry, one of the organizers, had planned to arrive in Japan in January this year to open a variety store. He has been vaccinated and was tested for the virus, but his plans went awry due to the tighter border controls.

Barry, living in Illinois, said limiting entries to a small fraction of the exchange students was a narrow-minded move and had no scientific basis.

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