Japan on Monday rolled back its request for people to wear masks after three years, but little has changed in a country that holds much respect for their effectiveness in anti-virus protection.
Most commuters who left Tokyo’s main train station in the morning wore masks on their way to work. In such a situation, people were on the streets. During a televised budget committee meeting in parliament, some lawmakers were still wearing masks, although Prime Minister Fumio Kishida did not when he arrived at his office on Monday.
Baseball fans gathered outside the Tokyo Dome hours before Monday’s games Australia-Czech Republic and China-South Korea were also wearing masks. They would also be able to cheer without their masks as that restriction was lifted as well.
Dropping the request to wear a mask is one of the last steps taken by Japan’s government in easing COVID-19 rules in public places as it tries to expand business and other activities.
“Starting today, wearing a mask is left to individual judgement. We are not forcing anyone to wear it or take it off. “I think there will be more opportunities when I take off my mask.”
However, Kishida asked people to use masks around vulnerable people to avoid the risk of infection.
In a country where the pressure to conform is extremely strong, many people were expected to keep wearing them for now. The request for masks for outdoors was dropped last summer, yet many people continue to wear them.
Restaurants, stores and airlines removed signs prompting customers to wear masks. But many of their employees are keeping their masks on to show consideration for customers and others who need protection.
Ramon Zero, a popular chain, tweeted on Monday that it is up to customers to wear masks but that employees will continue to wear them for the time being. It also asked customers to cooperate with hygiene measures, such as not talking loudly.
Spectators at baseball and football games will no longer be asked to wear masks and will be allowed to cheer without masks. The Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks announced that visitors and employees at their stadium can use their own judgment on masks starting Monday.
Japan last stopped requiring Covid-19 tests for entrants with at least three shots after nearly closing its borders to foreign tourists for nearly two years.