Relaxed new mask usage guidelines barely spread among Japan public -- Jun 28
More than a month has passed since the Japanese government relaxed its guidance on mask usage to reflect subsiding fears of the coronavirus, yet its call for removing masks whenever possible has not caught on widely among the public, Kyodo reports.

There has never been a mask mandate in the country, but more than two years of the pandemic has made mask-wearing the polite thing to do, even as heat-related illnesses are emerging as a concern as Japan readies for a boiling summer.

Experts say many people are unaware the government has been proposing since May 20 that masks can be taken off in certain circumstances, which may remain so until a well-known figure like Prime Minister Fumio Kishida outlines the new guidelines publicly.

The recommendation for outdoor mask usage now only applies to those conversing within two meters of each other. But most people continue wearing them outside regardless of circumstances. The government has made some efforts to increase public awareness of the changes, creating leaflets and planning to broadcast the message through commercials. There have been multiple cases of children who wore masks during gym classes being sent to hospital due to heat exhaustion or heatstroke.

The education ministry has asked schools to let schoolchildren go maskless during physical activities, and for younger children to take masks off on their school commutes.

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