Tokyo: Japan on Thursday decided to officially downgrade the legal status of Covid-19 to the same category of seasonal influenza, with the new status coming into effect on May 8.
The move comes as the Health Ministry endorsed the government’s plan to recategorise Covid-19 and downgrade its legal status to the same group as seasonal influenza, reports Xinhua news agency.
Ahead of the upcoming string of Golden Week holidays here, the schedule for downgrading the status comes as the government is also considering lifting Covid-19-related border controls that are still in place, a week earlier than initial plans.
With Japan expecting increasing inbound and outbound travellers during the holiday period starting Saturday, the remaining border controls may be lifted at midnight on Friday.
At the moment, those entering Japan must show official evidence of having received three Covid-19 vaccinations or present a negative test result taken within 72 hours of departure.
When the downgrading of Covid-19 comes into effect on May 8, the virus will no longer be in a special category equivalent to or stricter than Class 2, but will be categorised among Class 5 diseases like seasonal influenza.
If there is a future spike in cases of Covid-19 infections, under the lowered categorization, a state of emergency will not be declared.
“Special measures that the government has been taking in response to the novel coronavirus will end on May 7,” Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare Katsunobu Kato told a press conference.
Kato also said that while efforts have been made towards the resumption of normal social and economic activities, Covid-19 has not disappeared and as such medical institutions, along with facilities for the elderly, will be asked to take necessary measures.
Under the auspices of the health ministry’s advisory panel, a group of experts warned earlier in April that a ninth wave of infections could hit Japan.
Kato himself on Thursday highlighted an uptick in cases in Japan of a new subvariant of the virus.