Japan lifts remaining COVID nonessential travel warnings
TOKYO – The Japanese government on Wednesday lifted its last remaining warnings against nonessential trips abroad over COVID-19 after downgrading its travel advisories for 76 countries and areas, including Australia and Taiwan.
The Foreign Ministry said it lowered the travel advisory for those destinations, also including New Zealand, Mexico and Turkey, from the second-lowest Level 2 on its four-point scale to Level 1, which advises Japanese nationals traveling to those regions to “stay fully alert.”
The ministry said the decision came “as the infection situation globally has generally been improving” and that other Group of Seven industrialized nations have already scrapped their coronavirus travel advisories by country and area.
The 76 countries and regions comprise six from the Asia-Pacific region, 11 from Latin America, 20 from Europe, and 39 from the Middle East and Africa, according to the ministry.
By August, Japan had designated 125 countries and areas as Level 1.
Those who plan to travel overseas are still encouraged to get fully vaccinated to prevent COVID-19 infection, the ministry added.
Wednesday’s measure came after the government scrapped last week its 50,000-person cap on daily arrivals, as the nation aims to revive its struggling inbound tourism sector by relaxing border controls that had been criticized as too strict.
Japan has also ended the requirement that tourists travel on package tours, and that visitors obtain a visa if they are citizens of one of 68 countries and regions with which Japan had a waiver agreement before the pandemic.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told a parliament committee session that he expects the latest decisions to “further activate international exchanges such as business trips.”
As for any future response, Kishida said, “We will make an appropriate decision by taking into account border controls by other major countries and infection situations both in Japan and overseas, while maintaining balanced measures that prevent infections from spreading further and that preserve socioeconomic activities.”
Japan has scrapped as well its classification of countries and regions by COVID risk. It now allows people to skip virus testing and isolation upon entry as long as they provide proof of either having undergone three vaccinations or returning a negative test result within 72 hours of departure.
Following the global coronavirus outbreak that began in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, Japan issued a Level 2 travel advisory for the rest of the world in March 2020, and later raised it to Level 3, which warns people to avoid all travel, for most nations including the United States, China and South Korea.
Estorial surrendered to the police on Monday. He said he feared for his life and asked for forgiveness from his victim’s family.
Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos had announced a P6.5-million reward for the shooter. He had repeatedly warned the gunman to surrender or face possible elimination by those behind the assassination.
When Estorial was presented by Abalos to the media at the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame on Tuesday, the confessed gunman’s face was half-covered by a mask and he was wearing a bulletproof vest and Kevlar helmet.
“The public may be asking, did he really surrender or he’s just a fall guy? No, it’s really him,” Abalos said.
He said investigators were confident that Estorial was the gunman because the slugs recovered from the crime scene matched those from the .45-caliber pistol he had turned over to the police and the red jacket he was seen wearing when he shot the broadcaster was recovered, although it had already been torn up.
“I am afraid for my life and I am being bothered by my conscience for what I did to Percy Lapid,” Estorial said.
“I hope that they forgive me,” he said, teary-eyed. “I did not want to do it. I was forced to do it because of poverty. I had no job and I needed the money.”
Estorial, 39, is a native of Javier, a fourth-class municipality in Leyte province, who had settled in Quezon City.
According to Estorial, he and five others were involved in the killing. He named three of them—brothers Edmon, 30, and Israel Dimaculangan, 35, who were residents of Las Piñas; and a certain “Orly” or “Orlando” from Batangas province.
The three are now the subjects of an “intensive follow-up operation” by a special police task group, according to Police Brig. Gen. Jonnel Estomo, chief of the National Capital Region Police Office.
Estorial said the person who “put out the contract” to kill Mabasa was an inmate at New Bilibid Prison (NBP) who served as the middle man for the unknown mastermind.
Police said the fifth accomplice was still unidentified.
‘Straight out of a film’
Mabasa’s brother said Estorial’s confession, if true, was “scary because this story is like straight out of a film” and those involved could be killed “and the truth will die with them.”
“I do not want my brother to be simply part of the statistics of our dismal record of impunity in the country,” he said.