Kishida said he has instructed Health Ministry officials to discuss the move and that his administration will also review rules on face masks and other pandemic measures.
“In order to strengthen efforts to ‘coexist with Corona’ and return Japan to a normal state, we will transfer the various policies and measures so far in stages,” Kishida said.
While daily cases of Covid-19 have decreased in Japan in recent weeks, the country still faces around 100,000 new infections per day.
Covid-19 has been classified as a category 2 disease, the same as tuberculosis and bird flu, according to Japan’s health ministry. Officials will now discuss reclassifying it to Category 5 — the lowest rank, which includes seasonal influenza.
Japan fully reopened its borders to foreign visitors last October after more than two years of pandemic restrictions, ending one of the world’s strictest border controls.
Influenza — or the common flu — and Covid-19 are both infectious respiratory illnesses with similar symptoms, but they are caused by different viruses and require testing to confirm a diagnosis, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says on its website.
According to the CDC, the risk of death or hospitalization from Covid-19 is Cut as high For most people due to high levels of vaccination and the immunity of the population from previous infections.
However, the World Health Organization is still listing the coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic, and has repeatedly said so Last updated A recommendation for people to wear masks after recent exposure to or close contact with Covid-19, and “anyone in a crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated space” to do the same.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on governments last week To continue sharing coronavirus sequence data, as it remains essential to detect and track the emergence and spread of new variants.
“It is understood that countries cannot maintain the same levels of testing and sequencing that they had during Omicron’s peak. At the same time, the world cannot close its eyes and hope that this virus will go away,” he said.
The news came as South Korea announced it would lift the mask mandate for most domestic areas, with exceptions for public transportation and health facilities. South Korean Prime Minister Han Duk-soo said on Friday that the changes will take effect on January 30.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said the measure will be lifted after the Lunar New Year holiday, when a large number of people are expected to travel.
The agency added that all new cases of Covid-19, severe cases and associated deaths are declining and the country’s medical response capacity remains stable.
The agency strongly recommended that people wear masks if they have symptoms associated with Covid-19, belong to a high-risk group, have had recent contact with a positive case, or have been in a crowded setting.
The prime minister said relaxing the mandate could lead to a temporary increase in new cases, and urged health authorities to remain vigilant.
South Korea scrapped most of its pandemic-related restrictions and eased the mandate for outdoor mask use in May 2022. It still requires people who test positive to self-isolate at home for seven days.
The country also restricted travel from mainland China and implemented testing requirements for people arriving from China, Hong Kong and Macau after Beijing eased Covid restrictions.
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