Japan's outdoor mask relaxation yet to filter through

Japan Today -- Jun 09
When the coronavirus pandemic began over two years ago, people in Japan quickly donned masks en masse with little complaint. But now the government has relaxed its guidance on outdoor mask usage, the message appears not to be filtering through.

On May 23, the ministry of health changed its advice to approve removing face coverings outside provided people maintain two meters' distance from each other and do not converse. Quiet, spacious indoor environments can also be used mask-free, it said.

But Tokyo's streets have since shown few signs of a mass unmasking, in an outcome anticipated by a survey released the day after the relaxation. A sample of 708 employed adults taken between May 11 and 16 by polling firm Laibo found just 30.3 percent of people would unmask because the government said it was okay to do so.

Kazuya Nakayachi, a psychology professor at Kyoto's Doshisha University specializing in trust and risk perception, says that rather than following government advice, people wear masks because they see others with them on.

More likely to be effective in changing behavior, he said, is encouragement to unmask from employers and other organizations closer to people's lives. Then, he said, the domino effect that saw people quickly don masks in large numbers could suddenly go into reverse. ...continue reading

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