Thursday, 23 March, 2023

Japan eases mask guidelines, but few are keen to change

Japan eases mask guidelines, but few are keen to change

Japan's government eased its mask guidelines on Monday, recommending them only on crowded trains and in hospitals or care homes, but there was little sign residents were keen to unmask.

Japan has never had a mask mandate, but residents have adhered to guidelines to wear them indoors and outside from the early days of the pandemic, and masks were common even pre-Covid during cold and hayfever seasons.

The country is one of the last places in Asia to end nationwide masking recommendations, and on Monday morning most commuters kept their faces covered, on trains and outdoors.

Japan avoided lockdowns and other harsh restrictions during the pandemic but still fared better than many countries, with 73,199 deaths in a population of more than 125 million.

There were just over 7,000 Covid cases reported nationwide on Sunday, and businesses have largely said they will leave it up to customers to decide whether to mask -- though staff will continue to wear them.