Japan has taken a final decision to fully suspend all visa-free travel programs between Japanese prefectures and the southern Kuril Islands planned for this year due to the coronavirus spread, an association of former residents of the southern Kuril Islands said on Monday.
Meanwhile, the association hopes that next year trips will be organized as scheduled previously, according to the Kyodo news agency, TASS reports.
The association considered the possibility of conducting a visa-free trip to the southern Kuril Islands on September 25-28 until the last moment, though eventually it was forced to abandon the plans.
The two countries agree visa-free travel programs every year, with trips taking place between May and October. Visa-free trips started in 1992 based on an intergovernmental agreement aimed at improving mutual understanding between the two countries’ people. Since then, over 8,000 residents of Iturup, Kunashir and Shikotan islands have visited Japan and more than 18,000 Japanese nationals have traveled to the southern Kuril Islands.
The total number of coronavirus cases has exceeded 68,800 people in Japan, whereas the death toll has reached 1,299 people, according to the recent figures. As many as 50,000 patients have recovered. On Sunday, the lowest daily increase in the number of new coronavirus cases since the middle of July was recorded as around 600 new cases were revealed across the country.