In a bid to quell public confusion over outdoor mask-wearing, the government released a set of guidelines on mask use Friday, saying that it is acceptable to take face coverings off outside even when standing near another individual — as long as there’s no chatting involved.

Preschool children age 2 and over, for whom mask-wearing had previously been recommended, can also go without masks, health minister Shigeyuki Goto said.

“Our stance that masks are very important as an anti-infection measure has not changed,” Goto told a news conference. “Apart from the policy change on children (a reversion to pre-omicron policy), we are just clarifying our existing view and putting that in writing. We think that it’s possible to balance the normalization of economic and daily activities with the continuation of mask-wearing as a basic anti-infection measure.”