Japan considers downgrading Covid-19 to same level as seasonal flu – CNN

Japan considers downgrading Covid-19 to same level as seasonal flu – CNN

Tokyo CNN —

Japan will consider downgrading Covid-19 to the same category as seasonal influenza this spring, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced on Friday.

Kishida said he has directed Health Ministry officials to discuss the move and that his government will also review rules on face masks and other pandemic measures.

“In order to further advance the efforts of ‘Living with Corona’ and bring Japan back to a state of normality, we will gradually convert the various policies and measures that have been taken so far,” Kishida said.

While daily Covid-19 cases in Japan have been falling in recent weeks, the country is still facing around 100,000 new infections per day.

Covid-19 is classified as a Class 2 disease, the same status as tuberculosis and bird flu, according to Japan’s Health Ministry. Officials will now discuss reclassification to Class 5 – the lowest rank that includes seasonal flu.

Japan fully reopened its borders to overseas visitors last October after more than two years of pandemic restrictions, ending one of the tightest border controls in the world.

Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has asked the Ministry of Health to discuss downgrading the status of Covid-19.

Influenza — or the common flu — and Covid-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses with similar symptoms, but they’re caused by different viruses and require testing to confirm a diagnosis, says the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). further his website.

According to the CDC, the risk of dying from Covid-19 or being hospitalized is greatly reduced for most people because of high vaccination rates and the population’s immunity to previous infections.

However, the World Health Organization still lists the coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic, and in its latest update reiterated a recommendation for people to wear masks after recent exposure or close contact to Covid-19 and for “anyone in a crowded, closed or poorly ventilated space” to do the same.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus last week urged governments to continue sharing coronavirus sequencing data, saying it remains crucial to detect and track the emergence and spread of new variants.

“It is understandable that countries cannot maintain the same level of testing and sequencing that they had during the omicron peak. At the same time, the world cannot close its eyes and hope this virus will go away. It won’t,” he said.

The news came as South Korea announced it would lift its mask mandate for most indoor areas, with the exception of public transportation and healthcare facilities. The changes will take effect on Jan. 30, South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo said on Friday.

The measure will be lifted after the Lunar New Year holiday, when large numbers of people are expected to travel, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

New Covid-19 cases, severe cases and related deaths are all declining and the country’s medical response capacity remains stable, the KDCA added.

The agency has urged people to wear masks if they have symptoms related to Covid-19, are in a high-risk group, have had recent contact with a positive case, or are in a crowded space.

Masks are still required on public transport and in healthcare facilities after South Korea relaxed its indoor mask mandate on January 30, 2023.

The Prime Minister said the relaxation of the mandate could lead to a temporary spike in new cases and urged health officials to remain vigilant.

South Korea has scrapped most of its pandemic restrictions and relaxed its outdoor mask mandate in May 2022. It still requires people who test positive to undergo seven days of home isolation.

The country has also restricted travel from mainland China and introduced testing requirements for people arriving from China, Hong Kong and Macau after Beijing eased Covid restrictions.