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Asia Minute: More East Asian countries are ditching their indoor mask rules

Japan Politics
Eugene Hoshiko/AP
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida takes off his protective mask before delivering a speech during a Diet session at the Lower House of the Parliament on Monday, Jan. 23, 2023, in Tokyo.

Japan's parliament opened a new session on Monday with a visible difference: no masks for speakers.

For the first time in nearly three years, lawmakers are allowed to speak at a podium without wearing a mask.

Masks are still required for those who are in the chamber but not at the podium—and lawmakers and staffers have to mask up in committee rooms, as they have had to do since April 2020.

Japan's Prime Minister says the government is considering a broader relaxation of guidance that suggests but does not mandate indoor masks.

In many parts of East Asia, mask rules have either been lifted or are in decline.

Starting next Monday, indoor masks will no longer be required in most parts of South Korea.

They will still be part of standard procedure at care homes and hospitals — as well as on public transit.

South Korea's outdoor mask mandate ended in September, although many people still tend to wear them both indoors and outside.

Hong Kong remains a bit of an outlier — maintaining a mandatory mask policy both indoors and out.

Police can fine offenders without a mask on the spot.

A top government health adviser says that could change once residents get through this winter.

Even then, officials say masks will likely remain the rule on public transport and in health care facilities.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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