Close-contact isolation period reduced to 7 days

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks to reporters at Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo on Friday.

The government has reduced the recommended isolation period for people who have had close contact with COVID-19 patients from 10 days to seven and has informed prefectural governments, among others, of the decision.

The government has also decided to reduce the close-contact isolation period for essential workers, such as medical professionals, from six days to five.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced the decision Friday after discussing the matter with Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Shigeyuki Goto and others at the Prime Minister’s Office.

The spread of the omicron variant has triggered a dramatic surge in close-contact cases and consequently, the number of people taking time off work to self-isolate is also increasing.

“We are trying to prevent the virus from spreading, but it is also necessary to strike a balance so that social and economic activities can be maintained as much as possible,” Kishida said after the meeting.

Essential workers — including medical professionals, public transportation staff, retail workers and people involved in the manufacturing of daily necessities — will be allowed to stop isolating if they test negative with qualitative antigen kits on both the fourth and fifth days after their last contact with COVID-19 patients.

Medical professionals may be exempted from self-isolating and allowed to work if they test negative.

Essential workers had been allowed to stop isolating if they tested negative in PCR tests or quantitative antigen tests on the sixth day, or if they tested negative in qualitative antigen tests on both the sixth and seventh days.

The government has also reduced the isolation period from 10 days to seven for people entering Japan from foreign countries where the omicron variant is dominant.

Asymptomatic coronavirus patients had been required to self-isolate for 10 days, but the period has also been shortened to seven days.

The incubation period of the omicron variant is believed to be three days, but for other coronavirus variants, it is thought to be up to 14 days.

The government shortened the isolation period for close-contact cases from 14 days to 10 days on Jan. 14, but experts called for the period to be reduced further.