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Italy, Turkey to accept Japan's vaccine passport from next week

This May 10, 2019 file photo shows an aircraft of Japan Airlines Co. at Haneda Airport in Tokyo. (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Five countries including Italy and Turkey have agreed to ease COVID-19 quarantine rules for travelers who have vaccine passports issued by Japan from next week, the Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

    The other countries are Austria, Bulgaria and Poland, with Japan currently in negotiations with dozens more. The arrangement is one-way only, with Japan not recognizing similar certificates from those countries for the time being, a government official said in a press briefing.

    The vaccine passports, which municipalities will begin accepting applications for on Monday, will enable travelers to avoid or shorten quarantine periods as well as requirements to provide negative coronavirus test results.

    They will initially be in paper form and show information including the holder's name, passport number, the type of vaccine they got and date of vaccination, while a digital version with a QR code containing the data could become available at a later date, the official said.

    In addition to the countries that will recognize the vaccine passports, South Korea will accept them as one of the documents necessary to apply for exemption from a 14-day self-isolation period.

    Estonia has also agreed to accept the document, but currently does not impose a quarantine period on travelers whether or not they have had their shots.

    Japan has been in talks with more than 30 countries including France and Greece to have its vaccine passports recognized, according to a government source, with new additions to the list to be announced on the ministry's website.

    The certificates will be "an important tool in resuming international travel going forward," the top government spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato, said at a press conference.

    Some of the countries are asking Japan to reciprocate by accepting their own proof of vaccination, said the official in the briefing.

    Negotiations with the United States, where states have differing rules regarding COVID-19 vaccines, as well as China, which is administering homegrown shots not approved in Japan, face particularly high hurdles, the official said.

    Travelers can apply for the certificates free of charge with the municipality responsible for issuing their vaccine vouchers. If they have moved to a different municipality between shots, they may need to submit applications to both to prove they are fully vaccinated.

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