Japan officially decides to downgrade COVID-19 to influenza level on May 8

Japan on Thursday formally decided to lower the legal status of the new coronavirus to a level equivalent to that of seasonal flu on May 8, paving the way for full normalization of social and economic activity. opened.

The schedule is finalized as the government considers bringing forward the lifting of the remaining coronavirus border control measures by more than a week to midnight on Friday, allowing travelers to travel abroad during the Golden Week holidays starting Saturday. We anticipate an increase in the number of people returning to their home countries.

Current requirements require all travelers entering the country to have received at least three doses of the COVID-19 vaccine within 72 hours of departure or to show proof of a negative coronavirus test result. I have.

People wearing masks walking in front of JR Tokyo Station on April 27, 2023 (Kyodo)

Infectious disease experts on a panel of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare gave the go-ahead for the planned reclassification schedule based on the current coronavirus pandemic situation and the health system’s readiness for a nationwide resurgence.

About 8,400 medical institutions, representing 90% of the country’s hospitals and clinics, are ready to receive up to 58,000 COVID-19 patients, the panel reported. About 44,000 facilities will accept outpatients from the current 42,000 facilities.

Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said at a press conference that the government’s special measures in response to the new coronavirus will end on May 7.

In Japan, COVID-19 is now legally designated as a special category equal to or higher than Class 2, which covers infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

The government has announced that COVID-19 will be reclassified as a Class 5 disease, such as seasonal influenza, from May 8.

Except for the high cost of treatment, the government will also end medical expenses for coronavirus-related outpatient care and hospitalization.

However, some infectious disease experts have stressed the need for seniors and others susceptible to coronavirus to continue wearing face masks to protect themselves, and are rapidly moving to pre-pandemic standards. Some people are wary of going back.

Tetsuya Matsumoto, a professor of infectious diseases at the International University of Health and Welfare, said, “If people start going out as they did before the coronavirus pandemic, the risks are still high.

Earlier this month, a group of experts on an advisory panel to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare warned that Japan could face a “ninth wave” of the coronavirus pandemic. Infectious XBB.1.5 variant of the virus.

More than 7.5 million COVID-19 cases were reported during the last surge, or eighth wave, of infections seen from late November to late January, according to the Ministry of Health.

Related article:

Japan Eyes Accelerated End of COVID-19 Border Controls to April 29

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