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Japan to start accepting vaccine passport applications in mid-July in hopes of boosting international travel

While barring foreign spectators from attending the Tokyo Olympics due to Covid-19, Japan is aiming to facilitate travel for its own citizens with plans to introduce dual-language vaccination passports next month.

Japanese citizens will be able to file applications for vaccination certificates as early as mid-July, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said on Thursday, as cited by Reuters. 

Kyodo News reported that the authorities will translate the government vaccination records from Japanese to English, so that applicants can be issued with a certificate confirming their vaccination status in both languages.

The ‘passports’, which are expected to be paper-based, will include date of birth, name, passport number, date of vaccination, and the manufacturer of the vaccine. Those wanting to obtain the certificate will need to fill in an application at a local government office, or online when it becomes available.

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The measure, which has courted widespread controversy elsewhere due to privacy and security concerns, is expected to facilitate international travel for Japanese people, allowing them to forgo lengthy quarantine times upon arrival, according to Kyodo. 

The Japanese government has long toyed with the idea. In April, it was reported that vaccine passports would be in the form of easy-to-use QR codes that could be downloaded via a specially designed app linked to a government database. The code could then be scanned at an airport to prove the vaccination status.

At the time, it was reported that Tokyo did not want the system to be applied domestically to restrict movement inside the country.

Japan, which is hosting the Olympic Games next month, is seeking to ramp up its lagging vaccination campaign, aiming to administer one million vaccinations daily by the end of June, as just around 5% of its population has been fully vaccinated so far.

It’s unclear so far if even locals will be cleared to attend the Games, with media reports suggesting the government may allow up to 10,000 domestic spectators into the venues.

On Thursday, Japanese Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura revealed that the government will relax some of the sweeping lockdown measures, repealing the state of emergency in nine prefectures and replacing it with a ‘quasi-emergency’ state in seven prefectures, including Tokyo.

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