Abe lifts coronavirus emergency in Osaka, nearby areas
TOKYO. KAZINFORM - Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday lifted the state of emergency in the western Japanese prefectures of Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo, as the spread of the novel coronavirus has slowed enough to justify the gradual easing of curbs on economic activity, Kyodo reports.
The Tokyo metropolitan area and Hokkaido in northern Japan will remain under the state of emergency but Abe said they may see it lifted as early as Monday after a review by health experts.
The coronavirus emergency has ended in 42 of the country's 47 prefectures. In rejuvenating a recession-hit economy, the remaining five prefectures -- Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa, Saitama and Hokkaido -- play an integral part as they make up about a third of national gross domestic product.
«In the areas where the emergency has been lifted, social and economic activities can increase in stages,» Abe said at a meeting of a government task force on the coronavirus response.
«The challenge of creating a new normal is beginning across the country,» he added.
An advisory panel gave the go-ahead to the government move after weighing certain criteria -- the number of newly reported cases over one week, the availability of medical care and the capacity to provide virus tests and monitor the spread of the virus.
In the Tokyo area and Hokkaido, the number of infections has been falling and the situation faced by hospitals has been improving, Abe said. Still, the premier asked people in the areas to avoid nonessential outings and travel across prefectural borders to contain the virus.
Abe faces the task of sustaining the downward trend in new cases while allowing more social and economic activities to resume.