Panel chief: No easing during state of emergency

The head of the Japanese government's coronavirus advisory panel says there should be no easing of restrictions while a state of emergency is in place.

Omi Shigeru spoke to reporters on Thursday after the panel met and approved the government's plan to extend the state of emergency in 19 prefectures.

Omi said there seems to be a mood among some people to seek an immediate lifting of various restrictions. But he said they cannot be relaxed unconditionally.

The panel has proposed using a system to identify people who have a low risk of spreading the virus, such as those who have received two vaccine doses or have tested negative.

It calls for the system to be introduced around November when all people who wish to receive jabs are expected to be fully vaccinated.

Omi said thorough preparations are needed for launching the system, including a national debate on how it should be applied.

He stressed that the state of emergency must be lifted before the restrictions on people's behavior can be relaxed.

Omi said he advised the government not to ease the restrictions while a state of emergency is in place because it would send the wrong message to the public. He said he repeatedly asked officials to ensure that this will not happen.