Mask requirements at Diet session hall podiums to end

Political parties in Japan have agreed that Diet lawmakers will no longer be required to wear masks at the podiums of the lower and upper house plenary session halls. The change will be introduced next Monday, when the annual ordinary Diet session starts.

Executive members of the Lower House Steering Committee agreed on Thursday to drop the requirement for their plenary session hall podium after confirming that plexiglass barriers are set up properly around it as an anti-COVID measure.

The Lower House started requiring masks in April 2020 for all lawmakers during full sessions in the hall and meetings in committee rooms.

The revision comes in response to skepticism raised by opposition members about the need for people at the podium to wear masks.

They argued that the distance between the podium and lawmakers' seats lowers the risk of infection.

Lawmakers will still be required to wear masks when not at the podium.

The Lower House Steering Committee will continue to discuss whether any mask rule revisions should be made for committee meeting rooms.

Committee chair Yamaguchi Shunichi of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party told reporters that although the coronavirus situation in Japan remains serious, the Diet should take the lead in revising mask rules as Japan starts to look for ways to coexist with the virus.

Members of the Upper House steering committee also agreed on Thursday to end the mask requirement at the podium of their plenary session hall.