Japan has stated that it will begin to treat COVID-19 as an equal to the seasonal flu.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida declared on Friday that COVID-19 would be downgraded from its current level two to disease category five, placing it on par with SARS and tuberculosis. The virus will be placed in the same category as the common cold and flu under the new classification to category five, which will take effect in the spring of 2023.
The shift means that wearing face masks will no longer be necessary in indoor public spaces and it also ends the need for infected people and close contacts to self-isolate.
“As we try to restore the lifestyles of a normal Japan, we would like to shift various measures step by step.
“In order to return to our ordinary daily life in Japan while pursuing measures to adapt to living with the coronavirus, we will study concrete measures to gradually move on to a next step”, Kishida was quoted as saying by Daily Mail UK.
Patients are, however, only to wear masks indoors if symptomatic.
Although, some Japanese experts have questioned the timing of the announcement, given that Covid cases were on the rise in recent times, with the current number of cases each day reportedly 338 per 100,000 people, a number that is up 40 percent from the previous week.
In recent weeks, there had also been an uptick in deaths correlated with a rise in infections among the elderly. Japan recorded 500 fatalities last Saturday.
“It’s still too early to tell if the current wave of infections has peaked,” the Director-General of Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases, Takaji Wakita, said at a panel session at the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare in Tokyo on 17 January.