TOKYO: Japan’s health ministry on Friday shortened the quarantine period for those who had close contact with people infected with the novel coronavirus to 10 days from 14 days.
For essential workers, municipalities are now allowed to decide at their own discretion to end quarantine for those who test negative for the virus on the sixth day from their contact with infected people.
Close contacts had been asked to stay at accommodation facilities or their homes for 14 days.
The change came amid concerns that an increase in close contacts among essential workers in sectors such as medical, elderly care and retail will make it difficult to maintain societal functions following a surge in cases of the omicron coronavirus variant.
The medical care supply system is being strained in the southernmost prefecture of Okinawa, with nearly 1,000 medical workers absent from work on Thursday due to a surge in infection cases.
An incubation period of omicron is around three days, shorter than those of other variants, and that 99 pct of symptomatic patients developed symptoms within 10 days from infection, according to the National Institute of Infectious Diseases. The government decided to shorten the quarantine period based on such findings.
Polymerase chain reaction tests will be used to decide when to end quarantine for essential workers. Authorized COVID-19 test kits available at drugstores are another option, but users of such kits will need to test negative on the sixth and seventh day from their contact to end quarantine.
The government will also cut the quarantine period for people entering the country from 14 days to 10 days. The 10-day treatment period for COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms will apply to unvaccinated people in addition to those who have been vaccinated.