Japan’s Health Ministry on Thursday granted emergency approval for the use of the oral COVID-19 pill made by US drugmaker Pfizer.

The drug, Paxlovid, will be used to treat people with mild symptoms of the coronavirus.

Last December, Japanese authorities also approved American Merck & Co’s molnupiravir oral drug for the treatment of the coronavirus.

Japan is witnessing a sixth wave of COVID-19 driven by the omicron variant, with the government extending the quasi-state of emergency in 13 provinces until March.

The country has already agreed with the Japanese arm of US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer to procure enough of the drug for 2 million people within the year. Following the ministry’s approval, the government will initially secure enough for 40,000 people.

Japan has reported more than 3.56 million COVID-19 cases, including 19,742 deaths, since the start of the pandemic.

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