Japan will further relax its COVID-19 border controls from March 14, increasing the daily cap on overseas entrants to 7,000 from the current 5,000, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Thursday.
Kishida revealed a new scheme at a press conference to give entry priority to foreign students, as business travel demand is not high.
The decision was made as phased easing of the entry restrictions have been the target of criticism at home and abroad for being too strict, and the demand for Japan to allow more entries was high, especially from foreign students ahead of the April start of the Asian country's school year.
"We will help students come to Japan by giving them (use of) vacant seats, especially on weekdays when there are not many business travelers," Kishida said, calling such students a "treasure" for the country.
"Many foreign students are worried if they can enter Japan before school starts in April," he said.
About 150,000 foreign students are said to be still waiting for entry into Japan due to the COVID-19 travel restrictions that have been imposed in the past two years.
In late November last year, Japan effectively enforced an entry ban on non-resident foreign nationals when the world grappled with the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant of COVID-19.
Currently, up to 5,000 people including Japanese nationals overseas are allowed to enter Japan daily following an increase from the previous cap of 3,500 that took effect on Tuesday. The entry of foreign tourists is still not allowed.