Japan government may decide when to downgrade COVID-19 this month

Japan's health ministry is likely to decide within a week on the timing of re-categorizing COVID-19 into the same class as seasonal influenza.

The government plans to downgrade the coronavirus this spring to category five from its current level equivalent to category two.

A health ministry panel of experts met on Monday to discuss the matter.

A majority of the members approved the downgrade, saying it is not appropriate to continue strict legal measures amid the reduced risk of serious symptoms. Others voiced concerns about periodically straining medical services in parallel with infection peaks.

The participants then discussed possible challenges associated with the reclassification, including how much of the medical costs the government should cover.

Some members pointed out that if patients perceive that they will have to shoulder parts of the costs for tests or hospitalizations, they might not seek medical help.

The reclassification would also allow ordinary hospitals to examine COVID-19 patients. Some experts said the government should continue providing subsidies for anti-infection measures as a way to increase the number of hospitals that would accept such patients.