Japan is considering allowing asymptomatic COVID-19 patients to leave their homes to buy daily necessities as long as they wear a mask and take other measures against spreading the virus, government sources said Saturday.
The proposal comes as cases have hit record numbers in many regions amid a seventh wave of the pandemic that shows no signs of abating, threatening to disrupt societal functions should many be confined to isolation.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the government would "thoroughly discuss" the policy before deciding whether to implement it.
Currently, those who test positive for COVID-19 are required to isolate at home for 10 days if they exhibit symptoms or seven days if they are asymptomatic.
Viral shedding has been found to be unlikely from the 10th day following the onset of symptoms, while asymptomatic patients do not shed the virus at all from the eighth day.
Some health experts also hold the view that people who have recovered from their symptoms can be allowed to go out as necessary before 10 days as long as they wear a mask.
The government is considering shortening the isolation period of symptomatic patients to a week to avoid disrupting the functioning of society should infections rapidly increase.
Among other recently eased measures, Kishida said earlier this week that the government would review its daily COVID-19 reporting requirements in a bid to reduce the burden on hospitals and local health centers.
Kishida also announced a relaxing of entry requirements for triple-vaccinated travelers to Japan, who will no longer be required to show a pre-departure negative COVID-19 test result starting on Sept. 7.