The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) has started preparations to discuss reviewing the status of COVID-19 under the Infectious Diseases Act. COVID-19 vaccines are being rolled out, and the decision about revising the status of COVID-19 will be made when the risk of infections developing into severe cases is confirmed to have been brought under better control, even if new cases are increasing. Once the legal treatment of the disease is revised, the strict measures currently in place could be relaxed, including requirements regarding the hospitalization of people with positive test results.
The Infectious Diseases Act classifies infectious diseases into five categories based on the degree of toxicity and infectiousness.
Ebola and the like are classified as category 1, the most severe category; tuberculosis and others, category 2; and ordinary seasonal flu, category 5. COVID-19 is currently not classified in the five categories but is considered a “novel influenza infection, etc.” Some of the diseases in this classification are subject to stricter countermeasures than those for category 1.
Some MHLW officials hope that the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines will further bring under control the number of severe cases and deaths. Once it is determined that the risks posed by COVID-19 have decreased, then an expert panel will discuss reclassifying the the disease under the law.