Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga called on citizens to spend the holiday season “quietly,” as the country started banning non-resident foreign nationals from entering amid record-high new coronavirus cases.

As Japan faces its third wave of coronavirus infections, Suga urged the public to continue exercising precautions. “Viruses do not take a break during the year-end and New Year season. I would like to ask for citizens to cooperate so that we can return to life as normal as quickly as possible,” the PM said.

He also asked ministers on Monday to “raise the level of their sense of urgency and thoroughly carry out counter measures” as Japan’s daily Covid-19 case numbers hit record highs in recent days.

Suga himself canceled a trip to the Ise Jingu shrine in central Mie Prefecture early next year, which is a tradition for prime ministers.

Japan also started barring entry of all non-resident foreign nationals from Monday, a precaution against a potentially more contagious coronavirus variant that has spread across the UK. The entry ban will last through the end of next month.

The latest restrictions were announced last week, when the new variant of coronavirus was confirmed in seven people over two days. Five people from Britain tested positive at Japanese airports, and two other cases were recorded in Tokyo.

The exemption of a 14-day quarantine for Japanese nationals and resident foreigners which began in November will now be suspended. Those entering the country must carry a negative test 72 hours prior to departure and self-isolate for a fortnight after arrival.

As of Monday, Japan has recorded 222,093 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 3,287 deaths. The country has been struggling to slow an ongoing upsurge of cases since November, and Suga plans to submit legislation that will make Covid restrictions legally binding for businesses and punish violators.

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