Here are the latest COVID-19 updates from Japan and beyond:
<Jan. 20, 2023>
- China said Friday it will allow group tours to resume to 20 countries starting Feb. 6 after it reopened its borders and abandoned quarantine measures earlier this month in a full departure from its strict "zero-COVID" policy, but Japan was not among the destinations.
- What will change in Japan when the legal status of the novel coronavirus is downgraded to Class 5, on par with seasonal influenza?
- Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will instruct health ministry officials to begin discussions in spring on downgrading the classification of the coronavirus to the same level as seasonal influenza, a government source said Friday.
- The number of suicides in Japan in 2022 rose from the previous year, pushed up by the first increase among men in 13 years, preliminary government data showed Friday.
<Jan. 18, 2023>
- 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.
- Japanese Emperor Naruhito, in a poem recited at the annual Imperial New Year's Poetry Reading on Wednesday, expressed hope that people's lives disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic will return to normal, touching on the friendship between young brass band members with whom he spoke.
<Jan. 17, 2023>
- With remote work becoming commonplace in Japan since the coronavirus pandemic, companies are seeking ways to have employees interact through "club activities," including in-person gatherings on holidays involving colleagues who have only previously met online.
- China's economy in 2022 expanded 3.0 percent from a year earlier, with growth battered by the nation's stringent "zero-COVID" policy involving lockdowns that was followed by an explosion of infections after an abrupt departure from it later in the year, government data showed Tuesday.
- The western Japan city of Kobe on Tuesday marked the 28th anniversary of the magnitude 7.3 earthquake that took 6,434 lives, with its first ceremony in three years at a pre-pandemic scale.
<Jan. 16, 2023>
- China has approved issuing some types of visas to Japanese and South Korean citizens as exceptions of its policy of suspending visa facilities after the neighbors tightened border controls on visitors from China, a Chinese government source said Monday.
- All Nippon Airways Co. plans to offer its flight attendants the option of working two days a week, starting fiscal 2023, enabling them to pursue second jobs as the coronavirus pandemic has dented demand for air travel, company sources said Monday.
<Jan. 14, 2023>
- Chinese health authorities reported Saturday nearly 60,000 deaths related to COVID-19 in just over a month, amid growing international criticism that Beijing's official data do not reflect the reality on the ground.
- The Japanese government is considering no longer asking the public to wear masks indoors in principle unless they have symptoms, a government source said Saturday, possibly changing the public's daily anti-coronavirus practice drastically.
- Japanese drugmaker Daiichi Sankyo Co. has applied with the health ministry for approval of a new coronavirus vaccine, aiming to be the first in the nation to put a domestically developed messenger RNA vaccine into use.
<Jan. 12, 2023>
- Prime Minister Fumio Kishida expressed disappointment Wednesday over China's decision to suspend the issuance of visas to Japanese travelers in response to Tokyo tightening border controls on visitors from China to prevent the spread of coronavirus infections.
- An expert panel under Japan's health ministry on Wednesday urged the government to take a "gradual" approach to a downgrade of COVID-19's legal status to the same level as seasonal influenza, saying robust coronavirus measures must be sustained.
Useful resources for foreign residents and visitors in Japan
- Health ministry call center
COVID-19: 0120-565-653 (toll free)
COVID-19 Vaccines: 0120-761-770 (toll free)
-Interpreters available for English, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese and Spanish 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; for Thai 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; for Vietnamese 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- Health ministry's COVID-19 Vaccine Navigation website
- AMDA Medical Information Center's "Multilingual Consultation Service"
- Available in Simple Japanese and English, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays. Also available in Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Tagalog, Thai, and Vietnamese on designated weekdays. Check schedule here.
- Tokyo Metropolitan Government's COVID-19 info
- Tokyo Metropolitan Government hotline
- Available in English, Chinese, Korean and Japanese, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. (including weekends and holidays)
- Available via fax for those with hearing impairments
- Japan National Tourism Organization's "Guide for when you are feeling ill"
- Multilingual clinic/hospital search available in English, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Japanese
- JNTO's "Japan Visitor Hotline"
- Available in English, Chinese, Korean and Japanese 24 hours a day
+81-50-3816-2787 (from overseas)