Japan withdraws ban on inbound flight bookings after causing confusion
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Tokyo - The Japanese government on Thursday withdrew its request for airlines to completely stop taking reservations for inbound international flights this month, local media reported.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida admitted that the transportation ministry's announcement the previous day had caused confusion to the public, while instructing officials to "adequately take into account" people's wishes to travel home.
The blanket halt made Japanese citizens and foreign residents unable to return until next year unless they already had reservations, Xinhua news agency reported.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, the top spokesperson for the Japanese government, told a press conference that the ministry has withdrawn the request and allowed All Nippon Airways Co. and Japan Airlines Co. to take new reservations for Japan-bound flights.
The government on Wednesday also lowered the daily cap for arrivals from overseas to 3 500 from 5 000.
Although research into the transmissibility and nature of the Omicron variant is still in the early stages, the unprecedented number of mutations in the new variant suggests the possibility that it could spread further and faster even than the highly contagious Delta variant.
Kishida has swiftly taken measures to prevent the Omicron variant from entering Japan, including banning new entries of foreigners and tightening quarantine rules on Japanese citizens and foreign residents returning from countries feared to have outbreaks.
However, the measures have also been questioned by Michael Ryan, head of the World Health Organisation's Health Emergencies Programme, for being discriminatory.