Japan will allow international cruise ships to dock at its ports, Transport Minister Tetsuo Saito said on Tuesday, lifting a more than two-year ban imposed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to stem the spread of the virus in the country.
The ministry determined that enough preparation had been made to accept ships carrying large groups of people, with guidelines developed by industry associations to prevent the spread of infections among passengers.
According to the Japan International Cruise Committee, 166 visits from foreign cruise ships are already scheduled from next March.
A file photo shows Chinese tourists disembarking from a cruise ship in Nagasaki in January 2018. (Kyodo)
The shutdown of international cruise ships had been in place since March 2020, after a coronavirus cluster infection on the Diamond Princess caused thousands of people to be quarantined in Yokohama near Tokyo the previous month and claimed 13 lives. over 700 infected passengers and crew.
Cruise lines will discuss with local port of call authorities and seek agreements on mooring.
All crew members on a ship must be vaccinated against the virus three times, and more than 95% of passengers must be vaccinated at least twice according to the guidelines.
Passengers suspected of being infected should be tested, and those with positive results and their close contacts quarantined.
The guidelines have been endorsed by infectious disease and crisis management specialists and reviewed by the Ministry of Lands, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism and relevant government agencies.
The government hopes that opening the border to international cruise passengers will help boost tourism.
In 2019, before the pandemic, about 2.15 million cruise passengers visited Japan, according to the ministry, with 1,932 stops made by ships of foreign cruise lines and 934 by those belonging to domestic companies.
International cruise ship operations have resumed in the United States and Europe from around June 2021.
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