Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida broke the news on Jan. 20, saying that the demotion of COVID-19 in the same class as seasonal flu will begin in the spring. Under current guidelines from the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW), COVID-19 is a Class 2 disease alongside the original SARS virus and tuberculosis.
Patients with Class 2 diseases and their close contacts are subject to restricted movement. Moreover, the classification allows central and local governments to issue emergency measures. The Jan. 20 announcement effectively puts COVID-19 as a Class 5 disease, the lowest category, alongside flu. While the new category allows Tokyo to restrict COVID-positive individuals to certain locations and impose government mandates, those infected with SARS-CoV-2 will be permitted to seek treatment at regular hospitals.
"In order to further advance the efforts of 'living with [coronavirus]' and restore Japan to a state of normalcy, we will transition the various policies and measures to date in phases," said Kishida.
The prime minister clarified that the downgrade of COVID-19 would also mean the repeal of mask mandates. However, he said that MHLW officials are reviewing if they would make exceptions to the downgrade and try to keep some of the other COVID-19 mandates in place.
"Changing its classification doesn't mean [COVID-19] is gone," said Japanese Health Minister Katsunobu Kato." We still need everyone to take voluntary measures by using masks and [following] precautions."
The health minister continued that masking up in outdoor settings remains voluntary and indoor mask mandates will be relaxed after the downgrade.
Japan is not the only country that downgraded COVID-19 to the same level as the flu. Back in August 2022, the Southeast Asian nation of Thailand said it would lower the disease classification of COVID-19 in October of that year.
In a statement, the Thai Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) said COVID-19 will be downgraded from a "dangerous" communicable disease to one that "needs monitoring." (Related: Thailand to demote COVID to same disease category as flu and dengue.)
According to the kingdom's disease classification, plague and smallpox are counted as "dangerous" diseases. Dengue fever and the flu, meanwhile, fall under diseases that "need monitoring."
Thai Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul explained that the MOPH's decision to downgrade COVID-19 sought to reflect the reality of the situation in the kingdom – as Thailand's pandemic situation had been starting to stabilize at the time.
Health authorities earlier said the kingdom should start seeing a decline in several cases and deaths by mid-August.
Anutin added that three things played a huge role in the health ministry's move to demote COVID-19 – the readiness of the Thai health system, the appropriate self-protection behavior of the Thai people and the availability of COVID-19 treatments there.
In relation to the latter, the health minister added that Thailand will also adjust its post-pandemic management plan. Under this revised plan, private hospitals can start directly procuring antiviral drugs instead of going through government channels.
Visit Pandemic.news for more stories about the COVID-19 situation in various countries.
Watch David Knight talk about Japan's refusal to lock down, which resulted in only 851 COVID-19 casualties.
This video is from The David Knight Show channel on Brighteon.com.