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Japan gov't experts call for COVID testing before New Year travel amid relaxed guidelines

COVID-19 vaccine syringes ready for administration are seen in this file photo. (Mainichi/Koichiro Tezuka)

TOKYO -- The Japanese government's COVID-19 countermeasures subcommittee called on people to get tested before traveling over the year-end and New Year holiday season, without urging them to refrain from activities altogether as in earlier years.

    The expert group, headed by Shigeru Omi, compiled COVID-19 infection countermeasures for the holidays on Dec. 9, and called on people to receive vaccinations against the omicron variant at an early stage as well as take coronavirus tests prior to traveling.

    The subcommittee pointed out the possibility that public health centers and medical institutions will be more strained due to an increase in infections ahead of the holidays. As part of countermeasures, it urged the ventilation of rooms by opening windows regularly and buying test kits and antipyretics in advance.

    In the past two years, the subcommittee has urged people to be cautious over the New Year holidays, as this period is prone to high risks of a surge in infections. In December 2021, Omi asked people to carefully consider holding year-end and New Year parties or traveling over the holidays, as the omicron variant had just emerged while its traits were still unclear.

    However, such phrases were not included in the infection countermeasures compiled on Dec. 9. A representative of the Cabinet Secretariat's Office for COVID-19 and Other Emerging Infectious Disease Control commented, "Though infection levels are high around the end of the year, Japan is not in a situation like last year where new variants will enter."

    (Japanese original by Hiroyuki Harada, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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