Wearing masks outdoors to protect against the coronavirus is not necessary providing social distancing is practiced, Japan's top government spokesman said Wednesday, with the approach of summer increasing the risk of heatstroke.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said the government will continue to review anti-virus measures while monitoring the country's coronavirus situation and consulting with medical experts.

Mask requirements have been easing overseas in line with progress in vaccinations against COVID-19. The United States has lifted a federal mask mandate and the use of masks is no longer required in Britain and France.

People wearing masks for protection against the coronavirus walk in Tokyo's Ginza area on April 25, 2022. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

"We recommend that people take off their masks outside as long as sufficient distance is maintained, especially when temperatures and humidity are high," Matsuno told a press conference.

"Experts say high-risk behavior, such as talking to people in close proximity without masks, should be avoided. Proper mask-wearing is necessary if you cannot maintain enough distance with others outside and talk with them," he said.

The number of infections has been stabilizing in Japan and the government is considering further relaxing its border controls to bring them in line with those of the other Group of Seven countries. Curbs on activity imposed under a COVID-19 quasi-state of emergency were fully lifted across Japan in late March.

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