(Bloomberg) -- Japan has dropped a plan for a blanket halt to all new incoming flight reservations, in a partial reversal of a policy announced a day earlier on concerns about the omicron variant. 

The announcement made Thursday by the top government spokesman comes after Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the total ban on new bookings had caused confusion among some people. Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno also said the government told airlines to “take the needs of returning Japanese nationals into consideration.”

The suspension of reservations had been introduced to control the number of arrivals in Japan, which has recorded two cases of the omicron variant in people returning from overseas. The variant has been designated by the World Health Organization as posing a “very high risk.”

Japan said Wednesday it would ban foreign residents who have visited South Africa or nine other nations in the region from re-entry, after a man who returned to the country from Namibia over the weekend was confirmed to have been infected with the omicron variant. Another man who had traveled from Peru was later confirmed to have been infected. 

Japan’s Airlines Suspend New Inbound Bookings for December (1)

Japan’s infection rate is the lowest among the Group of Seven nations and the government is seeking to extend a domestic respite from the pandemic. Nationwide daily new case numbers were at 117 on Dec. 1, while daily death rates have been in single figures for about a month. About 77% of the population have received two vaccine doses and mask-wearing is almost universal. 


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