This move would further relax mask-wearing and other preventive measures as the country seeks to return to normalcy.
Easing Restrictions on COVID-19 Treatment and Isolation
A change in status would also remove self-isolation rules and other anti-virus requirements. COVID-19 patients could seek treatment at any hospital rather than only specialized facilities. The goal is to create a system where COVID-19 can be treated as part of ordinary medical services.
Japan Sees Widespread Infections and Record Deaths
The move comes as Japan faces widespread infections and record deaths in its eighth outbreak wave since the pandemic began three years ago. According to the Health Ministry, daily deaths reached a record high of 503 last Saturday. Experts say the increase could be linked to worsening chronic illnesses among older patients.
Freeing Up Hospital Beds and Adjusting to a New Normal
Downgrading the legal status of COVID-19 under the infectious disease law could remove ongoing hospitalization and self-isolation rules. This would free up hospital beds reserved for COVID-19 patients.
However, Health Minister Katsunobu Kato emphasized that "changing its classification doesn't mean coronavirus is gone. We still need everyone to take voluntary measures using masks and precautions."