Post-pandemic Travel: Latest Updates, Frequently Asked Questions (April 19th 2021)
by HTIT team
What is it like to travel abroad in the post Covid-19 world? Is Hokkaido, Japan a safe post-corona travel destination? Is it even possible to talk about “post-corona” or should we just discover a new norm for future overseas travel?
We have gathered on this page some frequently asked questions and useful information regarding travel to Japan in the world after lockdown.
The situation we live in is changing constantly, so this page will be updated as new information comes up. If you do not find the information you are looking for, do not hesitate to come to say hi and ask away! Here we go:
COVID-19 IN HOKKAIDO AND JAPAN
What is Japan’s Covid-19 policy?
Japan has been relying a lot in tracing infection clusters instead of massive testing. Due to the post-war lawmaking, lockdowns like those seen in many other countries have not been possible in Japan. Instead, authorities have strongly requested people to stay at home and temporarily close businesses during the national state of emergencies. Some cities such as Tokyo and Osaka are lighting up landmarks as an alarm for the citizens when cases are on rise and they must be extra careful.
As for the current procedure, Japan is promoting a “new lifestyle” that means gradually opening the society while following appropriate countermeasures. The Health Ministry has been promoting avoiding “Three Cs”, namely Closed places with poor ventilation, Crowded places with many people nearby and Close-contact settings such as close-range conversation. Using face masks has been a widespread practice in Japan even prior to the novel coronavirus situation.
How is the Covid-19 situation in Japan in general? (Last updated: April 19th 2021)
At the moment new Covid-19 cases are rising nationally. In January 2021 a state of emergency was declared for the second time in Tokyo and several other prefectures (excluding Hokkaido). The state of emergency was lifted in six prefectures in March 1st 2021. The emergency state was lifted in Tokyo and the neighboring prefectures at March 22nd. Recently, there have again been more cases reported daily and Japan is said to be facing a fourth wave.
All in all, Japan has been able to manage the Covid-19 situation relatively well when we consider the confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths per capita. Despite managing the situation well, there has still been some criticism over the Japanese government’s late response at the initial stage of the spread of the virus, as well as concerns related to Japan’s limited testing and the capacity of the medical institutions. The public conversation regarding Covid-19 measures continues.
You can find easy-to-understand statistics on Japan’s current Covid-19 status in English behind the following link. Please note that the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases does not tell the whole story anymore now that time has passed since the beginning of the epidemic and many patients have already recovered. We recommend to pay attention to the number of active cases and the shape of the curve to get an image of the latest situation: https://covid19japan.com/
Flow of events in Japan: The first coronavirus cases in Japan were reported as early as December 2019. The situation was surprisingly well under control for a few months. However, at the end of March 2020, there was a sudden increase in the confirmed coronavirus cases especially in the Tokyo metropolitan area. A nationwide state of emergency was announced in the beginning of April. The state of emergency was then gradually lifted, and as of May 25th none of the prefectures are under a state of emergency. In July 2020 the number of confirmed cases has started to rise again with new daily records reported in areas such as Tokyo and Osaka. A state of emergency has been declared for the second time in Tokyo and several other prefectures in January 2021. The state of emergency was lifted in six prefectures in March 1st 2021. Tokyo metropolitan area’s state of emergency was lifted at March 22nd. Recently, there have again been more cases reported daily and Japan is said to be facing a fourth wave.
How is the Covid-19 situation in Hokkaido? (Last updated: April 19th 2021)
Japan’s northernmost island Hokkaido was actually one of the first areas in Japan, where the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases started to rise, at the end of February 2020. This is one reason why the cumulative number of cases tested positive is relatively high in the prefecture, though most of the people have recovered.
Nationally, Japan faced a new wave of coronavirus infections starting from autumn 2020 and another in early 2021. The number of confirmed cases started increasing again in Hokkaido also. There have been around 100-150 confirmed cases per day reported in Hokkaido during the last week. Sapporo city has asked citizens to avoid unnecessary outings and the city has exited the state’s Go To Travel discount campaign that promotes domestic travel for the time being.
Simple timeline for COVID-19 in Hokkaido:
・End of February 2020: Hokkaido’s prefectural state of emergency (Not a lockdown due to Japanese law). During this time people were able to live their daily lives quite normally.
・End of March 2020: Prefectural state of emergency lifted.
・Middle of April 2020: Nationwide state of emergency in Japan. A second wave of Covid-19 cases also in Hokkaido. Not a lockdown.
・End of May 2020: Nationwide state of emergency lifted in all prefectures.
・End of November: Sapporo citizens asked to avoid unnecessary outings and traveling to other areas in the prefecture. The warning has been extended to continue until the middle of May 2021.
・January 2021: A state of emergency has been declared for the second time in Tokyo and several other prefectures in January 2021, but Hokkaido was not part of the emergency declaration. The state of emergency was lifted in most prefectures in March 1st.
・“New Hokkaido Style” : http://www.pref.hokkaido.lg.jp/kz/kks/pictgram/english.pdf
TRAVELING TO HOKKAIDO, JAPAN
Are the borders of Japan open for travelers? (Last updated: April 19th 2021)
No. Only Japanese nationals, residents of Japan with an appropriate visa are able to enter the country. We will keep you updated as we get new information. At the moment also most business travel and new visas are on pause because of the new COVID-19 strains.
Any travel restrictions? (Last updated: April 19th 2021)
Yes. Until the end of June 2020 only Japanese nationals and residents of Japan with an appropriate visa and exceptional circumstances were able to enter the country. The travel restrictions were eased at the end of June, but first was the turn for business travelers from designated countries of Asia and Oceania. Residents of Japan can enter Japan starting from September regardless their reason for leaving the country. Foreigners are required to present a negative PCR test result that is less than 3 days old, they must go through another test at the airport and have a 14 days quarantine period. At the moment also most business travel and new visas are on pause because of the new COVID-19 strains.
Tourists are likely last in line when it comes to easing the travel restrictions. There has been discussion on bilateral regional travel contracts and so called “travel bubbles” between nations with similar virus situation. In case of Japan, it is likely that countries of Asia and Oceania are first in line as partners. We will keep you updated as we get new information.
For the latest information on the current entry bans please check: https://www.japan.travel/en/coronavirus/
Are travelers requested to self-quarantine? (Last updated: April 19th 2021)
Yes. The arriving individuals are required to undergo a PCR test and self-quarantine for 14 days. Foreigners are also required to present a negative PCR test result that is less than 3 days old. Staring from November 2020 business travelers visiting form overseas for less than 7 days do not need to have 14 a quarantine period, if they can show a negative test result and their planned schedule. At the moment also most business travel and new visas are on pause because of the new COVID-19 strains. We will keep you updated as we get new information.
Are there international flights available to New Chitose, Hokkaido’s largest airport? (Last updated: April 19th 2021)
No. At the moment there are no regular international flights to or from New Chitose Airport. There are however domestic flights available via Tokyo or Kansai. Please note domestic flights are considered public transportation, so you are not allowed to transfer when arriving from overseas. We will keep you updated as we get new information. Please confirm with your airline company for details regarding their future flight connections.
Are the hotels, restaurants, and sightseeing locations in Hokkaido open?
For the most part, yes. There are hotels, restaurants and sightseeing locations open in Hokkaido, but as is the case all around the world, many hotels and restaurants have not been able to take the hit. Some restaurants that are not bankrupt are closed until further notice and others are managing by with shortened opening hours, take-away and home delivery options. We find supporting the small local businesses is as important as ever in the current situation.
Part of Hokkaido Treasure Island Travel’s private tour service is taking care of all the reservations for you, so you do not have to worry about finding the places in operation.
Are people welcoming post-Covid travelers? How do the locals feel about overseas tourists in the current situation?
Many people in Hokkaido are depending on tourism and are already eagerly waiting for the return of travelers. However, it is true that this is from an economical point of view and on an emotional level people might feel uncertain about the situation.
We here at Hokkaido Treasure Island Travel personally know the individuals who work with us, and we are actively in contact with the local businesses. We try our best to communicate with the locals and discuss with them, also about their potential anxieties.
THE FUTURE OF TRAVEL: WHAT WILL IT BE LIKE TO TRAVEL IN THE POST-COVID-19 WORLD?
What happens if I get coronavirus during the trip?
Hokkaido Treasure Island Travel will support you during the whole trip, including any emergency situations. In Japan, there are small clinics that you can visit without appointment. For a large hospital you generally need a referral, which you can get from a small clinic.
Monitoring your and your travel companies’ personal health is a crucial part of responsible post-Covid-19 travel. If you start to feel under the weather during the private tour, you should inform your travel companies and personal driver without hesitation.
In general, it is recommended to have a good travel insurance, flexible flight tickets and extra budget in case you have to delay your departure. We strongly recommend to double check what your travel insurance says about hospitalization in case of a coronavirus infection, since using medical services overseas can become expensive. Even if you would not be in critical condition, it is possible you would need to delay your return home due to quarantine period, which would result to additional accommodation and daily necessity fees.
What if I am infected with coronavirus without symptoms and I spread it to locals?
At the moment, we do not yet know for sure what is the exact role of non-symptom transmission when it comes to Covid-19, but this is a genuine concern that should not be ignored. In the end, until we have a vaccinated population, the best we can do is practice the appropriate countermeasures to minimize the chances for transmission. As long as you keep the appropriate distance, wash your hands carefully, wear a mask and avoid sharing food etc. when you interact with the locals, the chances for transmission should be relatively low.
Can I get tested for Covid-19 while traveling in Japan?
We do not know yet how the policy for testing tourists is going to be arranged when more travelers are allowed to enter the country. At the moment Japan is planning to built virus testing centers to Tokyo and Osaka airports to speed up the testing process of people entering the country from abroad. We will keep you updated as we get new information. Judging from the current practices, at least measuring the body temperature is likely done for all travelers at the airports and many other facilities, such as hotels.
At the moment only Japanese nationals, residents of Japan with an appropriate visa and exceptional circumstances and business travelers from a few countries are able to enter the country. For now, all of the arriving individuals have to undergo a PCR test at the airport.
Anything else to consider when traveling in the post-Covid-19 world?
First come of course the basics: Washing your hands frequently and with care, cough etiquette, social distance. Avoid crowds and keep a track of the people you meet. Do not travel if you feel unwell. You know it.
Also, we believe that overall flexibility and having a plan B is going to be a key when it comes to traveling in the future. Check the cancellation policies with care beforehand and make sure you have a good travel insurance.
We at Hokkaido Treasure Island Travel will arrange your private tour so that you can travel safely in comfort. When you travel with our private tours, we will take care of your travel arrangements in Hokkaido and provide you also with alternative options in case of sudden changes.
Keep the good questions coming! If there are questions you do not find an answer to, do not hesitate to send us an inquiry. The situation is new for us too, and this is a huge chance for us to learn, so we are more than happy to hear your thoughts and ideas.