DAISHI CHIBA, Nikkei staff writer
TOKYO — A Japanese government advisory body will look into recommending a different designation for COVID-19, such as by treating it like the flu, in order to ease disruptions to the health care system.
Japan now counts COVID-19 as separate from its 1-to-5 scale of infectious diseases, assigning it the strictest reporting requirement, public funding for treatment and other measures.
Redefining it as category 5 — the same level as seasonal influenza — would no longer require full reporting of case numbers. Public funding of treatment would no longer be available, so the financial burden on patients would increase.
In recommendations July 14, the panel on COVID-19 measures suggested a need “to start considering designating COVID-19 as one of many diseases.”
The debate comes as Japan experiences what it calls its seventh wave of coronavirus infections, raising new cases to record highs.
Health care providers are being strained by the current wave. The case reporting requirement plays a role in this burden.
Once the number of infected people is clearly decreasing, the panel will recommend changes to the designation of COVID-19. One proposal could be to retain public funding for COVID-19 care, something that is not provided under the category 5 designation.
Japanese law divides infectious diseases into five categories, depending on the degree of danger and other factors. The highest level, category 1, includes Ebola virus disease and the bubonic plague.