• Reuters, Jiji


Japan aims to admit “large-scale” numbers of overseas visitors for the Tokyo Olympic Games without mandatory vaccinations or quarantines, provided tourists submit negative coronavirus test results and download smartphone tracking apps on arrival, the Nikkei business daily reported Wednesday.

The report, which did not identify the source of the information or detail how many visitors would be allowed, also said Japan would not restrict tourists from using public transportation systems.

Under current restrictions imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19, travelers are required to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival in Japan as well as sign up for contact-tracing apps.

Tokyo organizers were not immediately available for comment when contacted by Reuters.

Organizers of the games, which were pushed back by a year in March because of the pandemic, had sold nearly 1 million tickets overseas, the paper said, compared with 4.5 million in Japan.

Last month senior International Olympic Committee official John Coates said the number of athletes participating the games would not be reduced and it was down to organizers to make them feel safe.

Over 11,000 athletes are expected in Tokyo for the Olympics and thousands more will come for the subsequent Paralympics.

The plan to allow large numbers of visitors from overseas would underscore Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s pledge to revitalize Japan’s battered economy by boosting tourism — a pillar of the nation’s economic measures also supported by his predecessor.

Suga has been promoting domestic travel campaigns despite a surge in novel coronavirus infections that is quickly filling hospital beds.

The surge has dented Suga’s approval rating, with many saying his reluctance to put the brakes on domestic travel has contributed to the rising number of infections.

Japan has avoided the high numbers of infections and deaths from the virus seen in Europe and the United States but with the cold season approaching the country has posted record numbers of daily cases in recent weeks.

The Nikkei report provoked a strong reaction online, with some saying the government was putting people’s lives at risk.

“I wonder why the government wants to hold the Games in this situation. They must be crazy,” one social media user with the handle @nuna-13 tweeted. “Are they going to kill Japanese citizens?”

On Tuesday, informed sources said that the government is considering requiring foreign travelers to take out a private medical insurance policy before arriving in Japan even after the Tokyo Games.

The government plans to maintain the requirement during and after the Tokyo Games as it is expected to take time to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control, the sources said.

The requirement is designed to ensure that hospitals in Japan fully collect treatment fees from foreign tourists who are infected with the coronavirus.

The government believes that maintaining the requirement after the Olympics and Paralympics will help address concerns about uncollected medical fees after the games, the sources said.

It plans to request domestic insurance firms to provide policies for which customers must prove they do not have the virus and urge non-Japanese travelers to take out such policies.

Such products are expected to make immigration procedures go smoothly, helping Japan become a pioneer in the resumption of international travel.

The government also plans to set aside necessary funds in a planned fiscal 2020 third supplementary budget to develop a multilingual app to check foreign tourists’ health conditions.

Foreign tourists who visit Japan for the games will not be asked to undergo two-week quarantine if they use the app. Health minister Norihisa Tamura has said the introduction of the app will be “very effective” in the fight against the spread of the virus.

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