Govt. to make decision on state of emergency

Japan's government will likely decide as early as Thursday whether to lift the coronavirus state of emergency currently in place for Tokyo and three nearby prefectures.

The state of emergency for Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba prefectures is set to expire on Sunday.

It had been due to end on March 7, but the government extended it for two more weeks.

The strain on hospital bed availability in those regions has been easing, even though Tokyo and Saitama prefectures recently saw a rise in new cases.

Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide told a parliamentary committee meeting on Monday that his government wanted to reduce the strain on hospital resources through the two-week extension to the state of emergency.

Suga said it is too early to tell whether or not the state of emergency should be extended again, now that the pace of decline in new cases is leveling off.

Many within the government are in favor of lifting the state of emergency, given sufficient medical resources as well as the public's fatigue with anti-coronavirus measures. But some are calling for caution, now that variants of the virus are being detected across the country.

On Tuesday, Suga plans to meet the minister in charge of the country's coronavirus response, Nishimura Yasutoshi, and health minister Tamura Norihisa. They are expected to discuss the current infection situation and try to come up with a way to move forward.

Arrangements are underway for the government to make a decision on whether to lift the state of emergency as early as on Thursday, after listening to experts' opinions.

Even if the emergency declaration is lifted, the government plans to keep in place measures to prevent a flare-up of infection. They include requests for restaurants and bars to cut their hours and the restrictions on entry of foreigners.