Panel approves state of emergency extension

The Japanese government's plan to extend the coronavirus state of emergency in 19 prefectures, including Tokyo and Osaka, to the end of September has been approved by its advisory panel.

The panel of experts discussed the plan in a meeting on Thursday. The state of emergency now in place for 21 prefectures was originally set to end on September 12.

Under the new plan, the state of emergency in Miyagi and Okayama will be replaced with quasi-emergency measures until September 30.

Quasi-emergency measures currently applied to 12 prefectures are to continue in six prefectures until the month's end. They will be lifted in Toyama, Yamanashi, Ehime, Kochi, Saga and Nagasaki.

The changes would put 19 prefectures under a state of emergency and eight prefectures under quasi-emergency measures.

Nishimura Yasutoshi, the minister in charge of the coronavirus response, said the medical system remains strained in all prefectures currently under a state of emergency except Miyagi and Okayama.

The minister said the government will continue to ask people to halve their outings to crowded places and urge large-scale commercial facilities to control the number of visitors. He said remote working will be promoted further.

Nishimura said it's now crucial to reinforce the medical system and to make sure new cases stay on a downward trend.

He asked for continued cooperation from the public and said the government will do all it can to bring down infection numbers and ease the burden on the medical system.

The plan will be finalized at a government task force meeting on Thursday evening, after the Diet is briefed. Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide will explain the decision at a news conference.