Japan will ban foreign citizens from entering the country, reversing a three-week old relaxation of its rules, as Tokyo responds to the emergence of the Omicron variant.

Prime minister Fumio Kishida on Monday announced the decision, which will take effect at midnight on Tuesday.

“We’re handling the Omicron variant with a strong sense of crisis,” Kishida told reporters. “It appears to be spreading around the world so we continue to look at further strengthening our border control measures.”

The new ban covers foreign students, trainees and workers moving to Japan and business travellers on short trips. Under the relaxation announced three weeks ago, vaccinated business travellers could visit Japan with a quarantine as short as three days.

Japanese nationals returning from South Africa, neighbouring countries and other nations with Omicron cases would have to quarantine at government controlled facilities, Kishida said.

Traders in Tokyo said that despite the Omicron news over the weekend, Tokyo’s morning session had been relatively positive, with opening dip pared back before the lunch break as NY futures continued to trade positively.

However, the headlines regarding Japan’s new policies on foreign arrivals hit sentiment hard, driving down stocks that had previously been trading higher on expectations of a gradual return to the tourism market.

Shares in Japan Air Terminals and several of the large railway companies fell sharply.

“Japan had just started to open up for short-term visitors and this looks like a step back,” said CLSA head of execution services Takeo Kamai. “There is a lot of uncertainty and the Tokyo market is always going to trade conservatively at a time like that.”

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