Japan to Consider Downgrading COVID-19 to Less Serious Infectious Disease

Japan to Consider Downgrading COVID-19 to Less Serious Infectious Disease

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan will consider revising COVID-19 measures as early as this spring, downgrading the disease to a less serious category and relaxing guidance that people wear masks in public indoor places, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Friday.

Speaking to media after meeting with relevant ministers, Kishida said he had instructed them to consider the specific requirements for a reclassification that would put COVID-19 in the same category as seasonal flu.

“As we try to restore the lifestyles of a normal Japan, we would like to shift various measures step by step,” Kishida told reporters.

A classification downgrade to disease category five from the current category two would end an isolation requirement for infected people and their close contacts.

In a separate measure foreshadowed by Kishida, the government would also advise only patients with symptoms to wear masks in indoor public places, whereas currently it urges everyone to do so.

The government last revised coronavirus measures in May. It said then that people no longer had to wear masks when outside as long as appropriate social distance was maintained. Even so, the vast majority of people in Japan are still wearing masks in public, both outdoors and indoors.

(Reporting by Mariko Katsumura; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Bradley Perrett)

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