Japan has reversed its request to halt reservations for inbound flights, citing confusion between government agencies over the country’s efforts to halt the spread of the omicron COVID-19 variant, Reuters reported.
The country told airlines on Monday to stop allowing passengers to reserve seats on incoming flights until the end of December due to concerns around the new variant.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the move created confusion, as his Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said Kishida asked the transportation ministry to address the needs for returning Japanese passengers, according to Reuters.
"I understand the transport ministry has canceled its instruction for the blanket suspension of new reservations and asked airlines anew to give sufficient consideration to the needs of returning Japanese nationals," Matsuno told the media.
A Transportation Ministry official said airlines may take new flight reservations as long the number of arrivals stays below the daily limit of 3,500, which is down from last month's figure of 5,000, Reuters noted.
Japanese health officials have confirmed two cases of the omicron variant in the country, Reuters reported.
South African professionals first detected the new variant, formerly called B.1.1529, last week, saying it is “very different” from past mutations of the virus.
Japan followed other countries by banning foreign travel from South Africa and surrounding countries.
A ban on foreign entrants to Japan, which was rolled back last month and reimposed on Monday, remains in place, as does a ban on foreign residents of Japan arriving from those 10 African countries, according to Reuters.