Japan set to lift virus emergency excluding Tokyo area
TOKYO. KAZINFORM - Japan is expected to lift its COVID-19 state of emergency for six prefectures on Friday, while the Tokyo metropolitan area will have to wait for further signs its situation is improving, Kyodo reports.
Of the 10 prefectures under the state of emergency, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is expected to announce Aichi, Gifu, Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo and Fukuoka will be removed from the list at the end of February, earlier than the scheduled end date of March 7.
Tokyo and neighboring Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama are to remain under the declaration for the time being, a government source said.
A panel of experts in public health and other areas will meet in the afternoon to discuss the move, which will be finalized at a meeting of the government's coronavirus task force.
To exit the state of emergency, a prefecture must see its situation improve from Stage 4, the worst level on the government's four-point scale.
The stages are based on six key indicators, including the weekly number of infections per 100,000 people and the percentage of hospital beds for COVID-19 patients currently available.
Aichi, Gifu, Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo have all cleared most of the criteria, while Fukuoka has struggled to bring down hospital occupancy.
Under the state of emergency, people have been asked to refrain from unnecessarily leaving their homes, while restaurants and bars are required to close by 8 p.m. with fines for noncompliance.
Businesses are encouraged to adopt remote working, while attendance at large live events such as concerts and sports has been capped at 5,000.
Lifting the state of emergency will not mean an immediate return to normalcy, with some measures to stay in place to prevent a resurgence of infections.
The head of the Japan Medical Association, Toshio Nakagawa, on Thursday warned that an early exit could lead to complacency among the public.
«There is a danger it could send the wrong message that everything is all right now,» he said at a press conference.
The nationwide tally of coronavirus cases has fallen from the single-day record of nearly 8,000, logged in early January when the state of emergency was declared, to a little more than 1,000 on Thursday. There were 74 deaths attributed to COVID-19 the same day, down from the peak of 121 in early February but still relatively high.
According to a person in Suga's periphery, he had been leaning toward announcing on Friday that the state of emergency would be lifted for Tokyo and the three neighboring prefectures as scheduled on March 7.
But, the person said, health experts advised him that based on the latest data such a decision would be premature.
Suga initially declared a state of emergency for one month to Feb. 7 for the Tokyo metropolitan area before expanding it to a total of 11 prefectures. The declaration was later extended to March 7 with the exception of Tochigi.