More than a month has passed since the government relaxed its guidance on mask usage to reflect subsiding fears of the coronavirus, yet its call for removing masks whenever possible has not caught on widely among the public.

There has never been a mask mandate in the country, but more than two years of the pandemic has made mask-wearing the polite thing to do, even as heat-related illnesses are emerging as a concern as Japan readies for a boiling summer.

Experts say many people are unaware the government has been proposing since May 20 that masks can be taken off in certain circumstances, which may remain so until a well-known figure like Prime Minister Fumio Kishida outlines the new guidelines publicly.