Kato: Strain on healthcare key to ending emergency

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary says the government will weigh the strain on healthcare systems before deciding whether to lift the coronavirus state of emergency.

Kato Katsunobu made the remark on Monday as the government is considering lifting the emergency for all areas as scheduled on Thursday.

The state of emergency is currently in place in Tokyo, Osaka and 17 other prefectures.

Kato told reporters that each prefecture has been increasing the number of hospital beds for coronavirus patients and accommodation facilities for those with mild symptoms.

He said the numbers of new cases and those recuperating have kept decreasing. He said the occupancy rates for hospital beds and those for serious cases have both fallen below 50 percent, or the ratio for the highest level of alert, in all the areas.

Kato said the government will make a decision with a focus on the strain on medical systems and analyzing inoculation rates, the number of serious cases and hospital bed occupancy rates.

He said the government has so far not received any requests for quasi-emergency, focused measures to be applied if the state of emergency is lifted.

The government is expected to decide on its plan after Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide discusses the issue with relevant ministers on Monday. It is then expected to ask its expert panel for opinions on Tuesday to finalize the plan.