In an important step toward resuming business as usual in Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on May 14 lifted the state of emergency originally scheduled to expire at the end of May for 39 of Japan’s 47 prefectures, marking “the real beginning of our efforts toward a new normal in the era of the coronavirus” as new cases continue to decline. But with Tokyo, Osaka and six other prefectures still under the state of emergency, Abe urged citizens to remain cautious as the nation and world continue to confront the COVID-19 threat.
Among criteria the remaining prefectures must meet for a state of emergency suspension is a reduction in new infections to no more than 0.5 cases weekly for every 100,000 citizens. The eight prefectures account for nearly half of Japan’s population and GDP, with Tokyo and Osaka the two largest urban areas in the island nation. Japan expects to contain its economic losses to 38 trillion yen, 15 percent less than the 45 trillion yen hit originally projected.
The Japan government has planned a May 21 progress review in the eight prefectures, a timeline that Abe said could lead to the lifting of the state of emergency before the original cutoff at the end of the month, a move that would help stem the drain on the domestic economy.
Strict Immigration Controls Restricts International Travel to and from Japan by Supplier Engineers
As I reported on April 21, the Japan Foreign Ministry on March 31 raised its travel advisory to level 3 for 49 regions around the world including the U.S., prohibiting travel from Japan for any purpose. SEMI Japan is urging government officials to exempt Japanese supply chain engineers from the travel ban to allow visits to semiconductor manufacturing facilities in those regions in order to install, start up and service equipment.
Starting May 14, Japan blocked immigration of foreign nationals and permanent residents from 100 countries and regions worldwide, a ban applying to anyone who spent time in their home region within 14 days of their planned arrival in Japan. The areas include China, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan in Asia; Canada and the U.S.; and Germany, France, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland and the U.K. in Europe. For the complete list, see the Japan Ministry of Justice’s website.
Japan’s immigration ban mirrors restrictions now in place in many other regions around the world. The immigration controls are well-intended – to restrict the spread of COVID-19 – but hamstring the global microelectronics supply chain. For example, the curbs bar engineers from international travel to install new tools and software in fabs. SEMI Japan has stressed the potential chip industry impacts of the ban in ongoing talks with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and is facilitating discussions between government representatives and SEMI members to help clear the way for travel by critical supply chain workers to Japan.
SEMI Supports Members with COVID-19 Resources
SEMI international headquarters and regional offices are here to help you, our members. For more information on our webinars, surveys, best practices and other information designed to help you meet the challenges of the pandemic, please visit the SEMI Coronavirus Updates & Resources page.
 The May 21 review found three prefectures in western area – Hyogo, Kyoto and Osaka – met the criteria to lift the state of the emergency. Four other prefectures – Chiba, Hokkaido, Saitama and Tokyo – remain under the emergency order that will be reviewed again as early as May 25.
Jim Hamajima is president of SEMI Japan.