Masks no longer necessary outdoors with few conversations: Experts

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
People wearing face masks walk by Tokyo Station in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on May 9.

Tokyo (Jiji Press)—Wearing face masks is no longer necessary outdoors if there are few conversations, some members of the Japanese health ministry’s COVID-19 advisory board said Thursday.

In their recommendations, the experts noted that basic infection prevention measures, including wearing masks, are still important, in light of the high transmissibility of the omicron variant of the coronavirus.

However, they advised people to put off masks outdoors if there are sufficient distances between them or if there are few conversations even without sufficient distances.

The recommendations “gained consensus from (the panel’s) members,” its chair, Takaji Wakita, head of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, told a press conference following the day’s panel meeting.

Based on the proposals, the government will work to draw up specific guidelines on wearing masks.

As examples of outdoor activity requiring no masks, the experts cited walking and running in parks as well as bicycling.

The experts called on people to continue to carry masks and wear them when they use public transportation or have conversations.

Meanwhile, the experts said it is necessary to consider lifting a blanket request for preschool children aged 2 or older to wear masks.

They also said wearing masks is unnecessary for elementary school and other students during outdoor activities and on their way from and to home, considering the risk of suffering heatstroke, if they refrain from talking.