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Taking off masks indoors OK in some cases: Japan gov't

People wearing masks walk on a street in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on May 20, 2022. (Mainichi/Daisuke Wada)

TOKYO -- Wearing masks to prevent coronavirus infections is not necessary outdoors as long as people maintain social distancing, and even indoors if they keep apart and talk little, the Japanese government has announced.

    Health minister Shigeyuki Goto revealed the no-mask-required situations to reporters on May 20. He added that the government will no longer require preschoolers aged 2 or older to wear masks. The central government intends to notify local bodies of the policy shift soon, so they can inform the public.

    Goto explained that the guidelines do not require masking outdoors if people can stay 2 meters away from others, including when jogging, playing tag, or walking by others, and if they limit conversation. The government basically recommends wearing masks indoors including buildings, underground concourses and on public transport. However, masks may be removed inside as well, again if people maintain social distancing and keep conversation to a minimum. For example, masks are not needed "when reading alone at a library with few other people," a health ministry official said.

    While Goto emphasized that the Japanese government has not changed its view on wearing masks, he explained that the ministry clarified "situations where people can take off masks" because the government "has been unable to properly convey its message to people." He added, "The risk of heatstroke will rise (in summer). We recommend removing masks in situations where they are unnecessary."

    (Japanese original by Takashi Kokaji and Hidenori Yazawa, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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