Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and some members of his Cabinet will discuss later in the week whether to reclassify the novel coronavirus to the same category as common infectious diseases such as seasonal influenza, government sources said Wednesday.
By downgrading the disease's category to Class 5 from the current Class 2, the government could relax restrictive measures and reduce medical expense support.
Other government sources have said the government is leaning toward reclassifying the coronavirus to Class 5 in spring as COVID-19 has become less deadly and calls are growing to further spur economic activities.
Even if COVID-19 is reclassified to Class 5, the government will continue to shoulder medical expenses for treating the disease and vaccination costs as a transitional measure, the sources said.
The government may drop its recommendation to wear face masks indoors if the virus is reclassified to the lower category, the sources added.
The government no longer asks people to wear face masks outdoors, but the majority of the Japanese public continues to wear them in outdoor areas.
The country is currently witnessing its eighth wave of infections and a record number of daily deaths from COVID-19.
An expert panel under the health ministry urged the government last week to take a "gradual" approach to a downgrade of COVID-19's category while sustaining robust coronavirus measures.