49% want to remove masks more often ahead of rule easing in March: Mainichi poll

TOKYO — As anti-coronavirus mask rules will be eased in Japan on March 13, 49% of respondents to a recent Mainichi Shimbun poll said they want to take off their masks more often, overtaking the 44% that said they would prefer to keep wearing them.

In the opinion poll conducted on Feb. 18 and 19, 4% of respondents even said they currently do not wear masks, ahead of the government’s relaxation of mask-wearing rules, which will allow individuals to wear masks at their own discretion, indoors and outdoors.

The poll found a tendency for those in older age groups to be more careful about removing masks. A majority of respondents aged 70 or older said they want to continue wearing masks, while the opinion was split between those in their 50s and 60s. Meanwhile, many people aged 49 or younger said they want to take off their masks in more settings.

Mask-wearing will not be required at schools in principle from the new school year starting in April, as well as at this year’s graduation ceremonies.

On May 8, the coronavirus’s classification under Japan’s infectious disease control law will be downgraded to category 5, the same as seasonal influenza. Regarding this, 37% said this is “appropriate,” while 31% said the move comes “too soon,” and 19% said it is “too late.”

Twenty-eight percent of respondents rated Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s COVID-19 countermeasures highly, remaining almost unchanged from the 26% from the previous Jan. 21-22 survey. The percentage of those who disapproved of the administration’s countermeasures stood at 48%, down 4 percentage points from the previous survey.

As the government has also decided to appoint academic economist Kazuo Ueda as the new governor of the Bank of Japan (BOJ), the poll also asked individuals about the central bank’s current easy money policy. While 23% said it “should continue it as it is,” 45% said it “should be revised, ” while 31% said they did not know.

There has been the firmly rooted view that the central bank might revise its ultra-easy monetary policy led by BOJ Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda for around a decade, following the leadership change. Some members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party oppose such a move, saying, “It will lead to negating ‘Abenomics’ (the economic policy mix initiated under then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration).”

(Japanese original by Nanae Ito, Political News Department)

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