TOKYO, May 17 (Xinhua) -- Japan will accept vaccinated tourists in small groups from the United States, Australia, Thailand and Singapore later this month as a trial toward the full-scale opening up for foreign visitors planned for June, the Japanese government said Tuesday.
Since the early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Japan has closed its borders and prohibited the entry of foreign tourists.
As the situation has improved, Japan has been relaxing its travel restrictions in phases since March, accepting businesspeople, technical interns and students.
"International travel is extremely important for economic activities and regional revitalization," Tourism Minister Tetsuo Saito said at a press conference.
During the trial phase later this month, fixed package tours will be provided to small groups who would be allowed to go to limited areas where prefectural governments have agreed to the trial to manage the tourists' activities.
Only visitors who have had three COVID-19 vaccination shots will be able to participate, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism said.
Currently, 10,000 people a day are allowed to enter Japan, and the government is considering doubling the limit to 20,000 a day in June.
Amid COVID-19 travel restrictions, the number of foreign visitors to Japan in 2021 plunged 99.2 percent compared to the pre-pandemic year of 2019 to a record-low of 245,900. ■