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Quarantine sites near airports packed

TOKYO >> Amid omicron’s rapid spread across the globe, the Japanese government has required that people who enter Japan quarantine at government-secured facilities for three to 10 days.

Quarantine sites for arrivals at Narita and Haneda airports, however, have become crowded, and the government is moving people to other regions.

“I was surprised to hear (that I had to go to) Sendai,” said a 34-year-old woman, who arrived at Narita Airport on Dec. 11 after an 18-hour flight from Canada.

She had tested negative for the virus at the time of her arrival, but the country’s Quarantine Law required her to isolate for three days because Japan con­siders Canada a country under threat of omicron. Hotels around the Narita airport were fully booked and the woman was flown to Sendai to stay at a Sendai hotel.

Even after initial quarantine, returnees to Japan must isolate themselves at home, with both quarantines totaling 14 days. Her home is in the Kyushu region more than 900 miles away, and she was not allowed to use public transportation to get there.

It was impossible for her to rent a car to drive all the way to Kyushu, so she chose to do her remaining days of quarantine at a Tokyo hotel at her own expense.

“It’s tough physically and economically, but it can’t be helped in this situation,” the woman said.

The World Health Organization said the number of omicron patients is doubling every 36 hours to three days, significantly faster than the delta variant.

The number of countries that Japan has designated as nations under threat increased from six southern African countries on Nov. 26 to more than 50 a month later. Up to 8,000 arrivals a day have been sent to quarantine facilities.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has negotiated with hotels to increase the number of available rooms from 6,000 to more than 13,000. But the lack of sufficient facilities around Narita and Haneda airports has the ministry sending people to hotels near regional airports such as Sendai, Central Japan International, Kansai International and Fukuoka.

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