State of emergency for Tokyo area ended on Sunday

In Japan, the state of emergency for Tokyo and three surrounding prefectures expired at the end of the day on Sunday.

Emergency measures took effect in early January, when coronavirus cases were surging. Since then case numbers in the capital have fallen 80 percent, and leveled off as measures were put in place to prevent a resurgence.

Officials in Tokyo confirmed 256 new positive tests on Sunday, with 4 deaths.

Tokyo Governor Koike Yuriko said, "I want everyone to recognize that we need to avoid a rebound of infections. I am asking for continued cooperation to prevent a fourth wave."

There are concerns about places where people gather to view cherry blossoms.

At Tokyo's Ueno Park, temporary fences have been set up to prevent outdoor parties. Cherry trees had been lit up at night in the past, but not this year.

Local governments will maintain their requests that restaurants and bars close early, and that companies allow employees to work remotely.

Health minister Tamura Norihisa said the government will continue measures to prevent a resurgence after the state of emergency.

He also said, "We'll ask officials to set up PCR testing centers in urban areas such as train stations in order to detect any signs of an outbreak. Through such measures, we will work to prevent an explosive increase in case numbers.

Tamura also touched on the possibility of AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines being approved by the end of May. They are currently being screened for use in Japan.

Inoculations with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine started last month with healthcare workers getting first priority in the national vaccination program.

The minister says he is considering asking all travelers from abroad to remain at their accommodation and undergo tests there. Currently, that is only required of travelers from Europe and other countries where variants of the virus have been confirmed.

More than 1,100 new positive tests were reported across Japan on Sunday. That brings the total to more than 457,000 since the pandemic began.