Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced on Wednesday, March 18, that new quarantine measures are in place for travelers arriving from 38 countries, including Europe, Egypt, and Iran due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Individuals will be quarantined in a designated placed for 14 days and will be asked to refrain from using public transportation from Saturday, March 21. An entry ban will also be implemented for visitors from parts of Spain, Switzerland, Italy, and Iceland. Similar entry restrictions for travelers from China and South Korea also remain in place.
The state of emergency in Hokkaido was also lifted on Wednesday by Governor Naomichi Suzuki. According to Suzuki, the prefecture has avoided the spread of coronavirus. However, containment measures remain in place throughout the country and citizens are being asked to scale back or cancel major events. Authorities have closed schools and are carrying out enhanced health checks at points of entry.
As of March 19, 899 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the country. Further international spread of the virus is expected over the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the general risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue - throw tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.