Masks off when the heat is on in Japan Masks off when the heat is on in Japan
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Masks off when the heat is on in Japan

    This article is part of a series on important coronavirus-related information. Click here to read other installments: #Coronavirus the facts. Find the latest information on everything related to COVID-19.

    Heatstroke takes a toll

    Thousands of people are suffering heatstroke in Japan as an early heatwave takes grip. According to Fire and Disaster Management Agency data, more than 10,000 people nationwide were taken to hospitals with the condition during May and June. The number is about double the same period last year.

    Temperatures are soaring earlier than normal, with weather officials in Japan announcing the earliest end to the rainy season on record.

    Masks can come off

    Japan's health ministry is urging people to take precautions against heatstroke. That includes removing face masks outdoors when social distancing can be maintained and there is little conversation taking place.

    New guidelines on Japan's face mask policy were released in May, including a list of situations in which people can remove their masks. But many still consider wearing a mask to be standard practice and continue to do so outside, even on hot days.

    *Related article: New guidelines for face masks in Japan (May 31, 2022)

    Convincing people to go mask-free

    Local governments are supporting the advice that calls for masks to come off to prevent heatstroke, but changing an entrenched habit is a challenge.

    Miyagi Governor Murai Yoshihiro told a June 27 press conference: "Wearing masks has become a daily custom so people seem resistant to removing them. And people also might feel it's difficult to stop wearing them when many around them continue to do so." Murai said he will start to go mask-free outside to lead by example.

    At a public school in Okayama Prefecture, students and parents have been told repeatedly they don't need to wear masks when coming to and from the campus, but they continue to do so. Teachers think it will take time for students to adjust.

    Information in multiple languages on heatstroke and COVID-19

    Japan's health and environment ministries have released leaflets in 16 languages, encouraging lifestyle habits best employed to avoid heatstroke and coronavirus infection. The Japanese language version is the latest and was published in June 2022. The ministries say other language versions will be updated in time.

    They note that face masks retain heat, making it difficult for the body to regulate its temperature, and people may become dehydrated without realizing it. For full details, click on the desired language below.

    An English language leaflet addressing heatstroke and COVID-19
    An English language leaflet as of June 2021, addressing heatstroke and COVID-19, published by Japan's health and environment ministries. This information will be updated. Currently, the Japanese language version is the latest and was published in June 2022.

    Japanese, English, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Korean, Indonesian, Thai, Tagalog, German, Nepalese, French, Vietnamese, Portuguese, Burmese, Italian, Russian, Spanish

    Click here to check the heatstroke risk level by region on our website.

    This article was published on June 30, 2022.

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