Japan allows individuals to decide whether to wear anti-coronavirus masks

The Japanese government eased its coronavirus mask-wearing guidelines on Monday, leaving it up to individuals to decide whether to put on face coverings.

But the government maintains its recommendation that people wear masks on occasions, such as visiting medical institutions and using crowded buses or trains.

The government says this is to prevent the coronavirus from spreading to senior citizens and others at high risk of developing serious symptoms.

The government plans to use social media, TV commercials and other methods to explain when and where people should consider wearing masks.

Industry organizations have reviewed their anti-infection guidelines in view of the change. About 80 percent of them say they decided to allow each business to set their own mask rules.

Under Japan's five-tier scale for infectious diseases, COVID-19 is currently classified as equivalent to category two -- the second most severe level.

The government will downgrade it to category five, the lowest and the same as seasonal influenza, on May 8.