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Japan to ask tax-free stores to report visitors breaking quarantine

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mainichi– The government will ask duty-free stores to check the date of entry to Japan in customers’ passports and report if they were shopping in violation of the required 14-day quarantine period, sources close to the matter said Friday.

The government will also ask the stores to provide digital purchase records of violators to the National Tax Agency to ensure travelers follow the quarantine rule, as Tokyo grapples with a resurgence of COVID-19 just two weeks before the Tokyo Olympics open, the sources said.

All travelers to Japan are currently required to make a pledge to self-isolate for 14 days after entering the country, even when they test negative for the coronavirus upon arrival. Travelers from certain countries where highly contagious variants have spread are asked to stay in hotels or other accommodation for several days and take further tests as part of their 14-day quarantine.

Entrants associated with the Olympics are exempt from the usual border controls but are still required to take precautions, such as observing a three-day quarantine period after entering the country.

The quarantine rule has been frequently violated despite penalties for noncompliance such as publicly revealing names or, in the case of foreign nationals, revoking residence status and deportation.

The government previously said up to 300 people per day, who had pledged to self-isolate upon arrival in Japan, could not be confirmed in their quarantine locations or were to be found some distance away.

In the request sent to shop operators since the end of June, the health ministry asks them to provide information including the names, nationalities and passport numbers of violators to its Health Monitoring Center for Overseas Entrants.

If an Olympic-related visitor is found to be violating the rule, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare will report the matter to the games organizing committee.

Under the country’s tax-free system, travelers from overseas can purchase goods without paying the consumption tax of 8 to 10 percent. Around 55,000 stores offer duty-free shopping, according to the Japan Tourism Agency.

Currently, only Japanese nationals, foreigner residents, people related to the Olympics and those with granted approval due to “special exceptional circumstances” are allowed entry into the country.

In June, around 17,000 people entered the country, according to the Immigration Services Agency of Japan.