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Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Japan readies for big Olympic crowds with high-tech precautions

Tracking apps will help avoid vaccine mandate and travel restrictions

Japan plans to let foreign travelers into the country for the Olympics this summer with relatively few restrictions.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- The Japanese government has begun gearing up for an influx of foreign travelers to the postponed Summer Olympics here, devising layers of precautions to keep COVID-19 under control in innovative ways so as not to restrict movements.

The overall guiding principle is ensuring safety amid the outbreak while guaranteeing freedom of movement. Vaccines will not be mandatory, and visitors who submit proof of a negative coronavirus test and agree to use apps to facilitate contact tracing can skip the two-week quarantine. Use of public transportation will remain unrestricted as well.

The games are expected to be the first large-scale global event since the start of the crisis, and success could offer a model for the rest of the world to follow.

Roughly 4.45 million tickets have been sold to domestic buyers, with nearly 1 million more purchased overseas. Many visitors are slated to attend multiple events, and given that some events may be canceled, depending on the state of the outbreak, it has become difficult to predict how many travelers will come into the country.

The authorities will wait to decide such details as venue capacity limits until next spring, based on conditions elsewhere in the world.

Visitors will be asked to use the health ministry's Cocoa contact-tracing app along with a new app that links visas, proof of test results, tickets and other information to a unique ID for each person. While users can voluntarily leave a record of the locations they have visited on their own devices, Japan will not take more invasive measures such as GPS tracking.

Users will be notified if they may have come in contact with someone who tested positive so that they can go get tested either while still in Japan or after returning home.

Coronavirus test results and ticket information will be checked on the app upon arrival during the customs and quarantine process. The authorities will consider having travelers scan QR codes at hotels and restaurants to leave a record of where they have been.

The app will also let users track their physical condition. The government aims to have it offer access to advice in multiple languages if someone comes down with a fever, for example.

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