Japan mulls lifting mask advice for preschoolers

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno

The government is considering lifting advice for preschoolers to wear masks at nurseries ahead of summer, when high temperatures and humidity increase the risk of heatstroke.

“We’ll consider [what to do] while listening to the advice of experts,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters Thursday.

“The impact on children must be considered during discussions,” Daishiro Yamagiwa, the minister in charge of economic revitalization, said at a meeting Wednesday with the National Governors’ Association.

Following the outbreak of the omicron coronavirus variant in February, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry advised municipalities to have preschoolers aged two and above wear masks in nurseries as a temporary measure, based on recommendations of the government’s subcommittee for COVID-19 countermeasures.

Until then, the health Ministry had avoided issuing blanket advice for preschoolers to wear masks.

“Some children don’t like wearing masks. Forcing them to wear them increases the burden on caretakers,” a senior ministry official said.

The government is considering lifting the advice ahead of summer as COVID-19 cases have fallen to levels lower than those seen in February.

Regarding advice for adults, the government for the time being has no plan to change the current policy, under which people are strictly urged to wear face masks during conversations.

“It is not realistic for the government to ease mask advice [for adults] at this stage,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Thursday at a meeting of the House of Councillors’ Health, Welfare and Labor Committee.