By MARI YAMAGUCHI – Associated Press
TOKYO (AP) — Japan will lift a more than 2.5-year-old ban on international cruise ships that was imposed following a deadly coronavirus outbreak on the Diamond Princess cruise ship early in the pandemic, transportation officials said Tuesday.
The Department of Transport said cruise ship operators and port authority associations have adopted anti-virus guidelines and Japan is now ready to resume international cruise operations while receiving foreign ships in its ports. .
“Japan is now ready to start receiving international cruise ships again,” Transport and Tourism Minister Tetsuo Saito said. “We will create an environment that will allow tourists to enjoy their cruise carefree while in Japan.”
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The exact cruise ship schedule has not been announced. Among the first, a Japanese ship leaving Yokohama in December for Mauritius and returning in January.
Japan has banned international cruise ships since March 2020, after the outbreak on the Diamond Princess forced 3,711 passengers and crew to quarantine on board for two weeks, during which 13 people died. and more than 700 others have been infected.
Japan chose to isolate crew and passengers while keeping them on board as a means of border control, but has also been criticized for turning the ship into a virus incubator.
Cruise ship operators should discuss with local authorities further details of their port entry plans. The resumption of international cruise liners in Japan comes more than a year after returning to the United States and Europe.
Under the new guidelines, all crew members must have received three injections of the coronavirus vaccine while most passengers must be vaccinated at least twice. The guideline also calls for comprehensive ventilation, distancing and disinfection of common areas.
Japan, after much delay compared to many other countries, reopened its borders to individual foreign tourists in October and a resumption of international cruise ship operations will further help revive tourism in the country which has been hit hard by the pandemic.
Before the pandemic, more than 2.15 million cruise ship passengers visited Japan in 2019, according to the Ministry of Transportation and Tourism.
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