November 28, 2021

Foreign researchers facing stricter quarantine say they are “prisoners” in a Japanese hotel

Photo taken on November 2, 2021, shows a hotel in Narita, Chiba Prefecture, where foreign researchers are staying after their recent arrival in Japan. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) – Foreign researchers recently received by an institution affiliated with the Japanese government must follow stricter COVID-19 quarantine rules than not and have been “trapped” in their hotel rooms since arriving in Japan, people with knowledge of the situation said Wednesday.

More than 50 researchers participating in a Japan Foundation program are not allowed to leave their rooms at all until 15 days after arriving in Japan and security guards are watching to catch offenders, the people said.

The academics arrived in Japan on October 28 and are staying at a hotel near Narita Airport near Tokyo for a quarantine.

Their entry has been approved on an exceptional basis as Japan maintains travel restrictions due to the pandemic. But their treatment elicited a reaction from some participating researchers who compared it to staying in a “luxury prison” or described it as a case of “xenophobia”.

In response to the spread of the new coronavirus, Japan has imposed strict travel restrictions, as have other countries. But the United States and European countries have made it easier for them to accept foreign researchers amid an improving COVID-19 situation.

The Japan Foundation, affiliated with the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, conducts cultural exchange programs globally and has invited Japanese studies scholars from abroad.

An official at the foundation acknowledged that this was a “precondition” set by the relevant Japanese authorities and had to be followed for the program to resume.

Japan has set a 14-day quarantine period for those entering Japan, regardless of nationality, and they are asked to refrain from non-emergency exits.

Fellows were required to sign a written oath, under which no outings are allowed, including walking or shopping, and they will only stay in an assigned room. He does not ask if they have been vaccinated or not.

Fully vaccinated people can end the quarantine if they are negative in a voluntary test on the 10th day in Japan, excluding the day of arrival, under government rules.

But one of the sources said the foundation did urge academics to stay at the hotel until the 15-day period is over, without any such testing on the 10th day, claiming that if they were positive, they should cover the necessary expenses afterwards. .

When asked why researchers had to follow stricter rules, a government headquarters official on the COVID-19 response said: “We don’t know the individual cases.”

“I want to leave the room to go for a walk or buy food at least once a day,” one of the academics said.

Another researcher said it was one of the worst cases of “racism”, adding that “Japan dishonours itself in its contemporary history”.


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