In a major shift from his previous stance on COVID-19 prevention, Japan’s top coronavirus adviser has said that the country no longer needs to “fully” stop social activities, as symptoms of the currently dominant omicron variant are less severe than those of previous strains.

Shigeru Omi said in an interview with Kyodo News on Friday that Japan's coronavirus situation has entered a new phase. There is no more need to take measures such as shutting down schools and department stores as the government did in April 2020, when the country's first COVID-19 state of emergency was declared.

"We probably no longer need an option like fully stopping social activities," Omi said, adding that people have learned how to cope with the virus after more than two years of the pandemic.