Japan opens airport coronavirus test lab for departing travellers

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s largest airport opened a novel coronavirus testing facility on Monday as it takes steps to reopen international travel that has been largely grounded for months by the pandemic.

A medical worker wearing a protective suit conducts a simulation for a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test at newly-opened Narita International Airport PCR Center operated by Nippon Medical School Foundation, a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing facility aimed at outbound travelers who need proof that they do not have the virus before arriving at their destination, at Narita International Airport in Narita, east of Tokyo, Japan November 2, 2020. REUTERS/Issei Kato

The Narita International Airport PCR Center is aimed at outbound travellers who need proof that they are virus-free when they arrive at their destinations.

Japan on Friday eased travel curbs for nine Asian countries and regions.

Narita is one of two international hubs serving the Greater Tokyo area.

The testing lab, run by the Nippon Medical School Foundation, is the first at an airport in Japan and can deliver results in six hours, though it expects to get that down to two by the end of the month.

The tests are not covered by insurance and can cost as much as 46,500 yen ($444).

Japan’s travel curbs to battle the pandemic have been stringent, with an effective ban on entry by tourists and visa-holders from more than 150 countries before a phased relaxation of the rules began in September.

Travellers arriving in Japan are required to undergo a coronavirus test, with three international airports having the capacity to carry out about 10,000 a day.

With about 100,000 cases and 1,773 fatalities, Japan has weathered the pandemic better than many major economies.

($1 = 104.71 yen)

Reporting by Rocky Swift in Tokyo; Editing by Karishma Singh