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Japanese minister concerned over falling mask-wearing rate at schools, workplaces

Economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- Japan's economic revitalization minister on June 11 called for people to keep their masks on after a recent government survey showed that the mask-wearing rate at workplaces and schools has declined.

    Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura expressed concerns over the effect of coronavirus variants believed to be more transmissible than the conventional strain if the mask-wearing rate drops even further as weather is getting warmer for summer.

    Since January 2020, the Cabinet Secretariat's Office for Novel Coronavirus Disease Control surveys 1,000 people between the ages of 10 and 79 nationwide one to two times every month online.

    In a survey carried out in late May, 91.1% said they wore masks at work and school, down 1.8 percentage points from the previous poll in early May, while 89.2% said they put masks on outside, a 2.3-point drop from the previous survey. The mask-wearing ratio was higher when respondents were using public transportation and when they were in supermarkets or convenience stores, respectively at 95. 3% and 96.5% -- a 0.6-point decrease for the public transportation and about the same level for when inside stores compared to the previous survey.

    Between January and March 2020, before Japan declared its first COVID-19 state of emergency, the mask-wearing rate hovered between 40-89%, partially due to a serious mask shortage at the time. From April 2020 onward, it has remained at 80-99%.

    Concerned over mutant strains, Nishimura said, "The (mask-) wearing rate has been falling recently. While you can be flexible when outside to prevent heat stroke, it's worrying to see the rate dropping at schools and workplaces."

    (Japanese original by Ryuko Tadokoro and Aoi Hanazawa, Political News Department)

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