A planeful of Japanese business travelers landed in Vietnam on June 25, marking the first flight between the two countries since they imposed border restrictions in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Vietnam almost completely sealed off its borders to foreign nationals in March, while Japan currently bans residents of more than 100 countries and regions -- including Vietnam.
But the two countries are now easing their restrictions, allowing a chartered flight arranged by the Japanese Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam from Tokyo's Narita airport to northern Vietnam on Thursday.
The 150-odd passengers had their temperatures checked before flying, were tested for coronavirus on arrival and will be quarantined for two weeks in a hotel. Two other chartered flights are scheduled to run on Friday and Saturday, transporting a total of 440 people from Japan to Vietnam.
Around 130 of the travelers work at Japanese electronics maker Sharp Corporation's Vietnam factory, according to the company. "I am more relieved, than happy. We will now have the human resources we need to restart our operations," the company's Vietnam chairman Wada Kazuhito said, according to Japanese media outlet NHK.
It's the first step toward opening borders between the two countries, with Japan's Foreign Ministry saying earlier this month it is working to relax rules on travel with Vietnam.
But, for now, tourists aren't included in the plans.
Japan and Vietnam both appear to have brought their outbreaks under control. Japan has reported more than 18,000 cases and 971 deaths, while Vietnam has reported only 352 cases -- and no deaths, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.