COVID-19 Downgrade: Japan Business Getting Back to Usual

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Employees remove protective sheets at the Matsuya Ginza department store in Chuo Ward, Tokyo, on Sunday night.

With the legal classification of COVID-19 downgraded to Category V, the government’s basic response guidelines have been lifted. Businesses also scrapped their guidelines, which specified such measures as wearing masks when serving customers and the use of partitions.

Major convenience store operator Lawson, Inc. made it optional for its employees to wear masks from Monday. At Lawson’s Gate City Ohsaki Atrium store in Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo, sheets to guard against droplets at the cash registers were removed Monday morning for the first time in three years.

Store employees also served customers without wearing masks.

“It was difficult to hear people’s voices when the sheets were in place,” a 24-year-old store manager said. “Now that masks are optional, we want to serve our customers with a smile.”

On the same day, the Takashimaya Nihombashi department store in Chuo Ward, Tokyo, started operating without acrylic panels and sheets on the sales floors. However, Takashimaya said its staff members will continue to wear masks for the time being.

The government has left the decision on whether to wear masks up to individuals since March. However, in front of JR Tokyo Station, a notable number of people were still wearing masks on Monday.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Many commuters wear masks in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on Monday morning despite the downgrade of COVID-19’s legal classification.

A 50-year-old company employee of Yugawara, Kanagawa Prefecture, was on his way to work without a mask on. However, he said he would wear a mask when riding crowded trains or conversing with others in close proximity.

“I want to continue taking measures against infection at my own discretion, so as not to cause trouble for those around me,” he said.

Because its classification was changed under the Infectious Diseases Law, COVID-19 is no longer categorized as a special disease.

Given that, prefectural governments are now unable to recommend or direct those infected with the novel coronavirus to be hospitalized, while more medical institutions are expected to provide inpatient and outpatient care for COVID-19 patients.

The aim is for medical institutions that provide outpatient treatment for COVID-19 patients to increase from about 42,000 to 64,000. Some clinics started providing outpatient care from Monday.