By YU MIYAJI/ Staff Writer
July 9, 2020 at 16:45 JST
Arriving passengers line up to be checked by quarantine officers in protective gear at Narita Airport in Chiba Prefecture in March. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
As travel restrictions are starting to loosen and some borders reopening, Japan is joining an effort to issue a universal coronavirus electronic certificate to help low-risk travelers breeze through airports and entry points.
The Commons Project, a Switzerland-based nonprofit public trust newly established with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, is seeking to develop an app for the new system, which certifies the holder has not been infected with the virus.
The World Economic Forum, commonly known as the Davos Forum, where influential political and business leaders get together and discuss global issues annually, is expected to work on the project as well.
The first meeting on the project, involving public health experts from about 30 countries around the world, will be held on July 9.
Some of the countries are expected to start using the system from August.
Currently, in many countries and regions, international travelers are required to show the result of a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test upon entry and self-isolate for a certain period of time. In some cases, the visitors are required to submit their location information to authority.
Immigration officials have been concerned over possible forgery of required documents. Travelers and experts have expressed concerns about the ways local government keep individual medical records that contain personal information.
To alleviate such concerns, only medical and testing institutions that have cleared certain standards will be registered for the new project.
Results of PCR testing conducted at these organizations will be kept in a special intelligence infrastructure.
Each participating country or region is required to establish a foundation-style sub-organization to build a working relationship with public health authorities and testing organizations.
In Japan, a foundation was established inside the International House of Japan in Tokyo’s Minato Ward.
Hiroaki Miyata, a professor at Keio University School of Medicine, heads the foundation.
Users who have downloaded the app can check their test results and other health-related information to see if they are eligible to enter the designated country.
Once the system is implemented and starts working effectively, a traveler with an electronic certificate verifying a negative PCR test result can be exempt from PCR testing upon entry and self-isolation afterward.
To maximize the effectiveness of the app, PCR testing must be widely available worldwide.
That is not the case in Japan, where the availability of testing has been limited from the get-go.
However, James Kondo, chairman of the International House of Japan, believes that Japan can be a model for the new system.
“The number of COVID-19 patients has been relatively low in Japan," he said. "I believe Japan can take the lead in making universal rules. Not only European and North American countries but also many countries from Africa have expressed their participation in the project. So Japan should be actively involved.”
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