Foreign tourists visiting Japan must wear masks, take out private health insurance and be accompanied throughout their stay, the government said on Tuesday, planning a gradual opening after two years of COVID restrictions. -19.

The Japan Tourism Agency said that in the first phase of the reopening, from June 10, only visitors with tour packages will be allowed to enter, adding that guides from travel agencies accompanying visitors they will have to make sure they are wearing the masks.

“Tour guides should frequently remind travel participants of necessary infection prevention measures, including the use and removal of masks, at each stage of the journey,” the agency said in its guidelines.

“Even outdoors, mask wearing should continue in situations where people are conversing in close proximity.”

Japan has imposed some of the strictest border controls in the world over the course of the pandemic, barring nearly all non-residents from entering.

As most of the rest of the world eases COVID-19 lockdowns, Japan is also easing its rules. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has vowed to bring border measures on a par with those of other wealthy nations.

Recently, the government has begun to relax the rules on the use of masks for the general public, despite the fact that they are ubiquitous. Wearing face masks to prevent the spread of germs and fend off pollen was common in Japan before the coronavirus pandemic.

Last month, Japan conducted “test trips” with groups of about 50 people, most of them travel agents, but one of the participants tested positive for COVID-19.

James Jang, a travel agent from Australia who took part in one of the test trips, said the rules are likely to put some people off for now.

“Customers will have no problem wearing a mask indoors, but wearing it 24 hours a day is a hassle,” Jang told GLM.

“The cost of having a guide at all times can deter customers later, when they have more flexibility.”

In 2019, Japan received 31.9 million foreign visitors, who spent 4.81 trillion yen ($36.28 billion).

(1 US dollar = 132.57 yen)

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