Japan halted its visa-free policy for Hongkongers on Thursday, as a response to the coronavirus outbreak. Thailand, meanwhile, announced a 14-day self-quarantine order for all visitors from the city.

Japan’s Minister of Justice Mori Masako said on Twitter that visa exemptions enjoyed by Hong Kong and Macau passport holders would be suspended. No more visas would be issued for visitors from China and South Korea, either, after both countries saw widespread outbreaks.

Local airline Hong Kong Express announced that affected guests travelling between Thursday and March 31 are being offered a full refund, or free date or route change in light of Japan’s new measures.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that, starting from March 9, any visitors from South Korea and China would be quarantined for two weeks in response to widening coronavirus outbreak, according to Reuters.

tokyo skyline
Tokyo skyline. Photo: Derrick Brutel, via Flickr.

According to Japan National Tourism Organization, there were 31,191,856 visits made to Japan throughout 2018 – including 2,207,804 arrivals from Hong Kong and 8,380,034 from China.

First detected in Hubei, China, Covid-19 has infected more than 98,000 people and led to over 3,300 deaths globally. There were 105 confirmed cases and two deaths in Hong Kong as of Friday morning, along with 80,000 in China and 6,200 in South Korea.

Thailand and Bhutan

Thailand also announced on Thursday that visitors from Hong Kong would be made to undergo a 14-day self-quarantine upon arrival, RTHK reported.

Thailand had been indecisive with regards to its travel restrictions. The Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul said on Facebook on Tuesday that travellers arriving from 11 regions including Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau, China, Japan, South Korea, Germany, France, Singapore, Italy and Iran would need to enter a mandatory 14-quarantine with no exceptions. His post was deleted minutes later without explanation and Anutin closed his Facebook a day after, according to Bangkok Post.

Hong Kong mask coronavirus goggles
Photo: Kaiser/United Social Press.

Bhutan also announced a two-week restriction on all incoming tourists after it saw the first confirmed case of Covid-19: “The government will assess the situation after two weeks and accordingly decide on the restrictions,” The Bhutanese reported.

Another Hongkongers’ favourite travel destination – Taiwan – was among the first countries to impose travel restrictions upon Hong Kong. President Tsai Ing-wen announced on February 6 that all Hong Kong, China, and Macau passport holders would not be permitted to enter Taiwan. Taiwanese residents who have a travel history to those regions over the past 14 days would also have to enter mandatory quarantine.

Rachel Wong previously worked as a documentary producer and academic researcher. She has a BA in Comparative Literature and European Studies from the University of Hong Kong. She has contributed to A City Made by People and The Funambulist, and has an interest in cultural journalism and gender issues.