Japan seeks to have vaccine passports accepted by over 10 nations

Jul 05 , 2021. 13 hours ago – 21:20 KYODO NEWS

A departure lobby at Narita airport near Tokyo is virtually empty in December 2020, amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Kyodo)

TOKYO – Japan is making arrangements for its COVID-19 vaccination passports to be accepted by over 10 nations, including Italy, France and Greece, after the certificate program begins in late July, government sources said Sunday.

If the agreements are reached, certificate holders will be exempt from quarantine or showing negative test results for COVID-19 when traveling from Japan to those countries, the sources said.

But the Japanese government plans to continue requiring travelers entering Japan, including returnees, to quarantine for two weeks even if they have been vaccinated. The position has complicated negotiations with countries such as Singapore and Israel, which have called for mutual exemption, the sources said.

So-called vaccine passports are official documents showing a person has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The certificate, to be issued by municipalities, will include the holder’s name, passport number and date of vaccination.

Business circles in Japan have been calling for the introduction of vaccine passports. The country’s largest business lobby, the Japan Business Federation, known as Keidanren, proposed in late June that such certificates be in digital format.

Japan has lagged behind the United States, Britain and Israel, among others, in its rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations. However, it has stepped up efforts to inoculate citizens ahead of the Tokyo Olympics starting on July 23.

A quasi-state of emergency is in place for urban areas like Tokyo amid fears of the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus.

“Until we see the spread of the Delta variant subside, it will be difficult to allow the mutual exemption of quarantine,” a Japanese government source said.

Japan has a sweeping entry ban on foreign nationals to cope with the pandemic, except those with approval given under “special exceptional circumstances.” Travelers entering Japan are asked to stay at home or a designated facility for 14 days after arrival.

The European Union has its own digital vaccination passport for EU citizens and residents. Certificate holders are exempt from testing and quarantine when traveling to a different country within the bloc.

The World Health Organization does not endorse making vaccine passports mandatory for travelers as equal access to COVID-19 vaccines has not been ensured.

Cr. KYODO NEWS