(Bloomberg) -- Japan's decision to close its borders to newly arriving foreigners in an attempt to head off the omicron coronavirus variant has met with support from members of the business community, despite their earlier urging for Japan to reopen to the world.
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"Making this call is appropriate," said the lead editorial on Tuesday in the Nikkei, the paper of choice for business leaders. Just weeks earlier, before the discovery of the latest variant, the Nikkei had called for Japan to relax its border policy, saying Japanese businesspeople were being left out of international negotiations and the country's labor shortage could worsen.
Masatoshi Kumagai, the founder and chief executive officer of GMO Internet Inc., was among the business leaders who welcomed the move, which came a day before Japan discovered the first case of the omicron variant within its borders.
"Prime Minister Kishida, you've made a wise decision," he wrote on Twitter, hailing the swift action by Fumio Kishida, who has led the country since early October.
The plaudits stand in contrast to the previous position of business lobby Keidanren, which in September called on Japan's leaders to loosen border controls that have made it extremely difficult for businesses to import much-needed workers. Japan had begun to relax its rules only three weeks ago to admit students and businesspeople, while still banning tourists.
On Wednesday, Japan announced it would go further, banning re-entry for foreign residents who have visited South Africa or nine other nations from re-entry. The move is among the strictest border control steps the country has taken since the outbreak of the pandemic. Japan currently has some of the lowest daily Covid cases among major countries, outside of Zero Covid-pursuing nations such as China.
Kishida's reaction may reflect the tribulations of his immediate predecessor Yoshihide Suga, who was frequently criticized during his one-year term in power for moving too slowly to control the virus. A Mainichi poll in January found that 71% believed his declaration of a state of emergency had been too slow, as the nation grappled with a wave then fueled by spread of the alpha variant.
(Updates with latest controls in sixth paragraph.)
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