New cases in Japan continue to decline

The number of new coronavirus cases reported in Japan on Friday continued to decline. It comes as the government is extending the state of emergency in many parts of the country, including Tokyo and Osaka.

Authorities confirmed nearly 8,900 infections on Friday. The average number of new cases over the past seven days was 64 percent that of the previous week.

But the government says the medical system is still under great strain. It has decided to extend strict anti-virus measures beyond this weekend, through the end of the month.

The vaccine rollout continues to make steady progress. The government says everyone who wants to get shots will get them by October or November.

Officials plan to ease restrictions using a system that checks vaccination certificates or negative test results. Restrictions on bars and restaurants, as well as travel across prefectural borders, would be relaxed.

But experts say measures should not be eased until the state of emergency is lifted. They note there are still more than 2,000 patients around the country in serious condition.

Toho University Professor Tateda Kazuhiro said, "People will need to continue to take various precautions when they travel or eat out. It will be important to relax restrictions on people's activities one step at a time."

He says the authorities must try to minimize the number of new cases to prevent another surge.