Governors call for COVID-19 category review

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Prefectural governors are urging the central government to review the current legal classification of COVID-19, which allows tough restrictive measures on those infected with the disease.

The novel coronavirus is classified as being equivalent to Class II, the second-highest level on the five-notch scale of danger of designated infectious diseases under the infectious disease law.

It is labeled as one of the “infectious diseases including new strains of influenza,” allowing authorities to recommend hospitalization and request citizens not to go out.

While the possibility of changing the classification is being discussed in the Diet, the government is reluctant to review the classification as it would lose such options in the fight against the virus.

In a set of proposals adopted at a meeting in late April, the National Governors’ Association asked the central government to consider reviewing the classification, in light of the development of oral COVID-19 drugs and their effectiveness, as well as the emergence of new coronavirus variants.

The association, headed by Tottori Gov. Shinji Hirai, also cited heavy burdens placed on local public health centers that make hospitalization arrangements for COVID-19 patients.

The omicron variant is said to be less likely to cause severe symptoms than previous strains.