The visa-free exchange program between Japan and Russia will be put off this year, due to coronavirus pandemic, the Japanese government announced.

The Japanese part seeks to begin this year’s exchanging program in July, though the program normally starts in May, but the Russian government is concerned that the infection could be spread during the activity, VisaGuide.World reports.

However, on March 12, the governments of both countries planned to hold a meeting in Sakhalin, Russia to discuss the program, but Russia refused to hold the talks for the reason that there has been a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases in the northernmost Japan prefecture of Hokkaido, close to Sakhalin.

Even though the countries continued the conversations through email, there has been no progress in this situation.

Launched in 1992, the visa-free exchange program, was initiated in a bid to help the understanding between the citizens of both countries.

Amid coronavirus global crisis, Japan last week announced that it has temporarily banned the entry for countries highly affected by SARS-CoV2-2, in a bid to tackle the spread of the virus.

Countries included in Japan’s entry are South Korea, China, three areas of Spain, some areas of Switzerland, Iceland, as well as Indonesia and the US.

Also, the Japanese government urged its citizens to avoid travel abroad, unless in emergency cases, as they are fighting against the coronavirus disease.

Japan’s Foreign Ministry has raised its travel advisory alert for the whole world to Level 2 (out of a four-level scale), marking the first time Japan has raised the travel alert so high.

On the other hand, Russia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry also announced that it has suspended the processing of all documents and the visa issuance, including electronic visas.

From  March 18 until May 1, all non-resident has been prohibited from entering Russia.

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