Japan Plans to Allow Olympic Spectators Freedom of Movement, Use Contact Tracing App: Model for Future Visitors to Japan

Japan plans to accept foreign visitors on a large scale and allow them to use public transportation, while taking measures to help control the spread of the novel coronavirus at the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics next summer.

According to a report by the Nikkei newspaper, the government will not require foreign visitors to have a COVID-19 vaccination as a condition for entering the country, but will encourage people to use smartphone apps that link visa information, admission tickets, and travel records. The goal is allow people as much freedom of movement as possible, while minimizing the possible spread of the virus.

Contact tracing: Before, during, and after

Foreign visitors to Japan will be asked to cooperate with the following contact tracing protocol to help control the spread of infection.

Before entering Japan

  • Install the official contact tracing app on their smartphone.
  • Link their passport info, tickets, photo, and certification of a negative COVID-19 test, and other information to the app. The final decision as to what info should be linked will be made by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

While in Japan

  • When entering Japan, visitors need to show immigration officials certification of a negative COVID-19 test and that they have installed the contact tracing app. Visitors will then be exempt from the standard two-week quarantine period.
  • Visitors will be allowed to use public transportation but will be asked to record their movements on the app.
  • People will be asked to record their body temperature and health information on the app on a daily basis.
  • At hotels/ryokan: Visitors will be asked to scan QR codes displayed at accommodation facilities using the app to keep a record of where they have stayed.
  • At event venues: When entering or leaving an event venue, people will be asked to show picture ID to confirm their identity and to present the contact tracing app.

After leaving Japan

  • Keep the app installed on their phone for a period of time and to record their body temperature in the app.

How many Olympic spectators will be coming to Japan?

About 4.45 million Olympic tickets were sold domestically and almost 1 million tickets were sold overseas. However, Olympic organizers currently aren’t able to forecast how many foreign visitors will come to the Games because of the evolving COVID-19 situation.

In spring 2021, officials will decide the number of spectators and the system for accepting spectators at each venue. The guiding principle will be to carry out each competition, while guaranteeing freedom of movement and ensuring the safety of athletes and spectators.

Contact tracing app: A possible model for future visitors to Japan

Vaccination of foreign visitors will be left to the discretion of their country of origin. As mentioned above, this means that if a foreign visitor submits a certificate of a negative COVID-19 test and use the dedicated contact tracing app (called “COCOA”) then they do not have to do a two-week quarantine after entering Japan.

It is up to the individual to check in when they visit a location, such as a hotel or Game venue. The government will not able to track people’s locations using GPS.

You will be notified if you have been in contact with an infected person. A guest who receives a notification will be directed to go to a health center or medical institution. The app is meant to be designed in a way that will allow people to respond promptly if they may be infected, while protecting their privacy and freedom of movement. A record of your physical condition will also be recorded in the app, which can be shared at a multilingual consultation desk, in case you have a fever, for example.

The Tokyo Olympics are likely to be the first major global event to take place in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic, and the government believes that it can be an international model for realizing large-scale movement of people while protecting both human rights and safety. Japan is also considering using the contact tracing app for foreign visitors to Japan even after the Olympics Games.

Source: Nikkei newspapaer, December 2, 2020 (in Japanese)

Lead photo: Olympic logos at Japan Olympic Museum, photo by Scott Kouchi