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Japan to experiment with proof of vaccination at big sporting events

Yasutoshi Nishimura, Japanese minister in charge of COVID-19 response, speaks at a meeting with top officials of sports organizations in Tokyo on Sept. 27, 2021. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan will conduct an experiment using proof of COVID-19 vaccination at professional baseball and soccer stadiums in preparation for easing capacity restrictions, a Cabinet minister said Monday.

    The experiment is expected to be conducted in October as Japan continues seeing a steady decline in newly reported coronavirus cases, according to top officials of Nippon Professional Baseball and soccer's J-League, who held a meeting with Yasutoshi Nishimura, minister in charge of the country's coronavirus response.

    "We'd like to make further adjustments and conduct the experiment at an appropriate time," Nishimura said when holding discussions with NPB Secretary General Atsushi Ihara and J-League Chairman Mitsuru Murai.

    Murai said the start of the experiment could be as early as Oct. 1, while Ihara said NPB wants to get started by the end of next month.

    Currently, the maximum number of spectators allowed for professional baseball and soccer games is 5,000 in Tokyo and other areas subject to a COVID-19 state of emergency or a quasi-state of emergency.

    Once those measures against the virus are lifted, the cap for major sporting events will be raised to 10,000.

    The government plans to lift the latest emergency declaration covering Tokyo and 18 other prefectures at the end of September.

    It is considering further raising the spectator cap if the situation allows by accepting proof of being fully vaccinated or a negative test certificate in the upcoming experiment.

    "No one can predict how the infection situation will change, so I explained what kind of mitigation can be taken in accordance with the situation," Ihara said following the meeting with the minister.

    In a related development, the government plans to carry out a series of tests starting in October at restaurants, live music venues and other places that typically attract large crowds in preparation for the relaxation of restrictions.

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