People line up for polymerase chain reaction tests in Osaka on December 28 before heading off on their year-end breaks. Satoru Iizuka The health ministry has announced shorter self isolation periods for essential workers who come into close contact with people infected by the Omicron COVID 19 variant.
The guidelines that were released Jan. 14 would reduce the self-isolation period from 14 to 10 days for anyone who was in close contact with a COVID 19 patient in regions where the Omicron variant is prevalent.
The period will be shortened to six days for essential workers in such sectors as elderly and child care as well as those employed at retail outlets selling daily essentials as long as they test negative for COVID - 19.
The shortened period reflects growing concerns that vital social services could be compromised if large numbers of essential workers are forced to self-isolate. The shorter period also takes into account the fact that those infected with the Omicron variant show symptoms about three days later, shorter than for previous variants.
The six-day self-isolation period for essential workers will only apply to those who have tested negative in the polymerase chain reaction or antigen tests taken on the sixth day. Those using simpler but less accurate tests will have to test negative on both the sixth and seventh days of their self-isolation before being allowed to return to work.
The central government has listed sectors it considers vital to keeping society running, but decisions on which services are essential will be left to local governments.
Medical care professionals will be allowed to work as long as their daily test results are negative.
The 14 day recuperation period for those confirmed with COVID 19 and those who have not been vaccinated has been shortened by the health ministry. Such individuals now have to rest for 10 days, the same period as COVID 19 patients who have received jabs.
The 14 to 10 day self-isolation period for returning Japanese nationals from overseas was shortened. Those returning from nations where the Omicron variant has been prevalent will still be required to self-qualify at government-designated lodging facilities for periods of between three and 10 days.