Japan is planning to downgrade the categorization of COVID-19 on May 8 from a level similar to the strict Class 2 category, which includes tuberculosis, to something closer to Class 5, which includes the seasonal flu.

Compared with Western countries, Japan has been slow to draft an exit strategy from the pandemic. But the downgrade would mark a major shift in coronavirus measures, essentially returning the country to a pre-pandemic normal — at least from a policy perspective.

Mask-wearing would also be "up to the choices of individuals," essentially doing away with long-standing mask guidelines.