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Japan gov’t refers to possible extension of COVID-19 emergency

23 May 2021 12:49

TOKYO. KAZINFORM - Japan's top government spokesman on Sunday referred to the possibility of extending a state of emergency over the novel coronavirus in Tokyo, Osaka and seven other prefectures beyond the May 31 expiration date, Kyodo reports.

The government «will discuss whether to scale down (the state of emergency) to quasi-emergency measures, or to bring (the nine prefectures) back to a normal state if a certain period of continuation of the (state of emergency) declaration significantly improves the situation,» Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said on an NHK program.

In an effort to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has declared a state of emergency in the capital, Hokkaido and Aichi, Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Okayama, Hiroshima and Fukuoka prefectures -- with eateries told to close by 8 p.m. and to refrain from serving alcohol or offering karaoke services.

On Sunday, the government also invoked a state of emergency in Okinawa Prefecture, with similar measures in place in the southernmost island prefecture through June 20.

Kato indicated that if extended, a new deadline for the nine prefectures could coincide with the June 20 expiration date for Okinawa.

«We are expected to see questions about setting different deadlines for each region, so we will consider them in groups,» he said.

Kato said the government will take into account the level of infections, the occupancy rates of hospital beds for COVID-19 patients and the level of people's movements when making decisions about lifting the emergencies in the 10 prefectures.

Speaking in the same program, Keiichiro Kobayashi, a Keio University professor and a member of a government advisory panel on COVID-19 response, warned the government not to rush to end the emergency declarations.

«If the government hastily lifts the declarations, that would lead to a rebound (in the number of cases) and put a major brake on the economy,» Kobayashi said, urging the prime minister to give careful consideration to the timing to avoid a resurgence in infections.