Japan, Maldives bar travellers from Pakistan, India, other countries

The Japanese and Maldivian governments have decided to ban foreign travellers including Pakistan and India amid an uptick in that region in new variants of the coronavirus.

The Maldives has banned travellers from across South Asia despite having one of the world's most successful vaccination roll-outs.

Authorities said tourist arrivals from the key Indian market and other South Asian countries would stop from Thursday. They have already banned the entry of foreign labourers from around South Asia except for health workers.

"These restrictions apply to travellers originating from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka," Maldives Immigration said in a statement.

Anyone who has only transited through South Asia would also be included, it added.

On the other hand, The Japanese government will allow Japanese nationals coming from those countries to re-enter the country, as citizens are protected by a constitutional right to enter Japan.

The policy will take effect from Friday.

At present, only foreign residents with valid residency status and Japanese nationals are allowed to enter Japan, while new entries from all countries are banned with few exceptions for travellers seeking entry in emergencies.

Until last fall, the bans had also applied to foreign residents with valid resident status in Japan — the only Group of Seven countries to have COVID-19 entry restrictions that discriminate between citizens and permanent and long-term foreign residents — sparking outrage among its international community.

The latest decision to ban re-entry to residents comes less than two weeks after Japan added India on May 1 to a list of regions covered by stringent quarantine measures after a so-called double mutation, also known as B.1.617, that emerged in India was detected in Japan.

Travellers arriving in Japan from India and neighbouring Nepal and Pakistan are currently obliged to stay at designated facilities for six days upon arrival as part of a 14-day self-quarantine.

On April 26, the government said it had confirmed 21 cases of the B.1.617 variant in Japan, of which 20 were found at airport quarantines and one case confirmed among domestic infections.

While the travel ban will apply only to foreign nationals, Japanese citizens may also face the risk of entry denial if they fail to comply with the recently revised Quarantine Act.

The development comes after Kuwait had banned flights and barred entry to travellers from four countries — Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka — until further notice, as the emirate tried to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The decision by the Gulf state's cabinet did not include cargo flights.

To enter Kuwait from the four countries, people must have been in another country for at least 14 days beforehand, the statement said.

The United Arab Emirates has also barred entry to non-UAE resident travellers from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka starting today.

The UAE last month banned entry to travellers from India to guard against the spread of the highly contagious Indian variant.

"Flights between the four countries will continue to allow the transport of passengers from the UAE to Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka," the Gulf state's National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority (NCEMA) said.

The ban includes transit flights coming from those countries. Transit flights to those countries can continue.

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