Japan suspends vaccine and testing program due to spread of Omicron variant


This file photo shows syringes for vaccines. (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Japan will halt implementation of a government system combining COVID-19 vaccination and testing in a bid to revive economic activities following new infections, as the highly contagious variant from Omicron continues to spread rapidly, sources familiar with the matter said on Monday.

Restrictions for purposes such as meals are being eased under the system which checks whether visitors have been vaccinated twice or have proof of having tested negative for the virus. A spectator attendance limit for large-scale events such as concerts is also being relaxed under the program.

It would apply even when areas are placed under a full-fledged state of emergency or near-state of emergency, as a means of curbing the spread of the virus and normalizing economic activities.

The government is considering placing Tokyo and 10 prefectures under a quasi-state of COVID emergency, and plans to recommend the measure on the package to a government advisory group on the COVID-19 response as early as Wednesday, the sources said.

Prefectural governors and health experts have called for a review of the policy given the transmissibility of the disease.

While the government is also considering keeping the program going under certain conditions such as people having recalls, it has decided to end the program for the time being, the sources added.

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