Kishida orders review of COVID classification

Rodrigo Reyes Marin/Pool via REUTERS
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks during a news conference at the prime minister’s official residence in Tokyo, Japan, August 10, 2022.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has asked relevant ministers to review the need for mandatory reporting of coronavirus cases, among other measures, aiming to reduce the burden on public health centers and medical institutions.

Kishida also urged the ministers to expedite discussions on how COVID-19 should be categorized under the Infectious Diseases Law.

Currently, COVID-19 is treated as equivalent to Category II infectious diseases, which require reporting of all cases and identification of close contacts.

“It’s necessary to coordinate matters with relevant officials and make a decision [on mandatory reporting],” Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Katsunobu Kato said at a press conference after meeting with the prime minister on Monday.

Kishida wants measures to be implemented as soon as the seventh wave of the pandemic subsides.

“We must proceed [with the review] in a timely manner,” Kishida said on Aug. 10.

Under the law, COVID-19 is treated like other diseases in the second most severe category.

The reporting of all cases and identification of close contacts as required by law has put a heavy burden on relevant facilities. The government hopes a review of the classification will ease the burden on such facilities.

According to government sources, the prime minister has ordered Kato and others to consult experts about whether COVID-19 can be treated like diseases in the least severe Category V, which includes seasonal flu, in terms of items other than mandatory reporting.

The weekly average of infection cases nationwide was 195,945 in the week through Sunday, marking a 9% decrease from the previous week, according to a ministry tally.

However, the health ministry believes that there could be another surge as many people traveled during the Bon holiday season.

“We have to closely watch the infection situation,” Kato said at the press conference.