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Japan decides to lower COVID-19 classification May 8

Japanese government decided to lower the classification of COVID-19. (KyodoNews)
Japanese government decided to lower the classification of COVID-19. (KyodoNews)
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28 Jan 2023 02:01:02 GMT9
28 Jan 2023 02:01:02 GMT9

Tokyo: The Japanese government decided to lower the classification of COVID-19 under the infectious disease law, at a meeting of its novel coronavirus response headquarters Friday.

COVID-19 is set to be reclassified from Category II to Category V, the same as for seasonal flu, on May 8, the first business day after Japan’s Golden Week holiday period from late April.

The reclassification marks a big step toward the full normalization of social and economic activities, more than three years after the virus started to spread in Japan.

Still, the government plans to continue covering medical expenses of COVID-19 patients with public funds for the time being. A shift to the regular system requiring out-of-pocket payments will be implemented gradually in the future.

The government also plans to review special medical fees for hospitals treating COVID-19 patients, hoping to present details of planned changes in early March.

As for COVID-19 vaccination costs, currently fully covered with public funds, the government will continue to shoulder them if necessary.

“We will steadily move ahead in order to get back normal lives in every situation at home, school, workplace and in the community,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said.

He also said the government will take measures to avoid a rapid rise in COVID-19 medical expenses borne by the public.

In line with the reclassification, the government is set to end quarantine measures related to COVID-19 border controls for people entering Japan.

Japan will also stop counting all recognized infection cases, shifting to a system under which designated monitoring institutions keep tallies so that national trends can be estimated.

The government decided to remove the cap on the size of audience at sports events and concerts involving cheers, effective immediately.

Earlier on Friday, the reclassification was broadly approved by experts at a meeting of the infectious disease subcommittee of the health ministry’s Health Sciences Council. Participating experts proposed that the government set a preparation period of about three months before the change while noting that people should take infection prevention measures, including mask-wearing, based on their own decisions in principle.

The infectious disease law classifies infectious diseases on a five-tier system based on the severity of symptoms and infectiousness. Category II is the second highest on the scale.

Once COVID-19 is switched to Category V, administrative authorities will lose the legal basis for recommending hospitalization for novel coronavirus carriers and fully covering medical expenses with public funds. Also, the government will be unable to declare a state of emergency or pre-emergency justifying tough restrictions.

JIJI Press

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