Photo/Illutration Wearing masks, students attend a job fair in Tokyo’s Koto Ward on March 1. (Hiroyuki Yamamoto)

Experts advising the government on COVID-19 recommend that people carry a mask with them when going out, alongside other measures they presented ahead of the government downgrading the disease to the same category as seasonal flu in May.

The new set of actions, published March 8 by a group comprising Nobuhiko Okabe, director-general of the Kawasaki City Institute of Public Health, and 11 other colleagues, called on five basic measures for preventing infections while considering the protection of the elderly.

These include if an individual is concerned about possible infection, they should stay home or see a doctor; taking a mask along when going out and putting it on as the need arises; avoiding places with large crowds and poor ventilation; routinely washing hands; and following a moderate exercise and a healthy diet plan.

Another group of 15 experts, including Yoshihiro Takayama, who is a doctor at Okinawa Chubu Hospital in Okinawa Prefecture, called for “effective and sustainable responses” to COVID-19 on March 8.

After assessing the existing measures taken at hospitals and facilities for seniors, the group also concluded that restricting visitations for patients or occupants and curbing staff workers’ movements were excessive in some respects.

The group suggested that visitations should be permitted, pointing out the possibility that “restricting them would weaken patients or occupants physically, psychologically and socially.”

Regarding measures that restrict workers’ eating out and going on tours, the group said such curbs should not be permitted, adding “highlighting the everyday risks of infections is inappropriate.”

Still, the group acknowledged the need to sustain anti-COVID-19 measures, noting that hospitals and facilities for the elderly are places for patients to have the potential to develop severe symptoms.

It recommended that workers should always wear masks and patients with COVID-19 should be put in a private room.

The group also called on medical institutions to see patients running fevers and those with other diseases at different times and in different locations within the facilities.

The government will downgrade COVID-19 to a less-severe category 5, the same as seasonal flu, of the five-tier system under the infectious disease prevention law, starting from May 8.