• Kyodo, staff report

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Japan will start accepting applications for so-called vaccine passports from July 26 for people who have been fully inoculated against COVID-19 to travel internationally, the top government spokesman said Monday.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told reporters that some municipalities may be able to issue such certificates on the day of the application.

People should file applications in the municipalities where they were registered as a resident at the time they got their shots, Kato said, adding that the certificates will be issued free of charge.

The Foreign Ministry’s website will feature a list of countries and regions that will ease quarantine measures for those with a vaccine passport, Kato said.

The remarks came after Kato revealed the start date for applications during a television program on Sunday.

The government will also consider whether to use such certificates for domestic economic activities in response to a request to do so made by business circles, Kato said on Sunday’s NHK program.

But “we should never allow people to be discriminated against or forced unfairly according to whether they have been vaccinated or not,” he said during the TV program.

The vaccination certificates will be official records issued by municipalities showing a person has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with information such as name, passport number and date of vaccination also included.

Kato said last month the certificates will be issued by the end of July, initially in paper form. A digital format will be considered later.

The country’s largest business lobby, the Japan Business Federation, known as Keidanren, has proposed using the certificates for raising event attendance caps and for restaurant discounts in Japan.

The European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are also introducing vaccination certificates for international travelers from their member states.

Japan is looking to have its vaccination passports accepted by over 10 nations, including Italy, France and Greece, according to government sources. It hopes the countries will exempt holders from quarantine requirements or reduce quarantine periods.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government is stepping up its vaccination rollout, which has been slow compared with other countries. The program began in February with health care workers and expanded to those aged 65 or older from April. Inoculations for people under 65 have recently started in some municipalities and by companies for their employees.

But a recent supply shortfall is forcing some municipalities to restrict accepting reservations while new applications by companies have been suspended.

Suga has said he aims to finish inoculating all eligible people in Japan who wish to receive shots by November.

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