Japan eyes lifting state of emergency as planned

As the daily tally of new coronavirus infections continues to fall, the Japanese government appears ready to lift its state of emergency for at least some prefectures at the end of this month.

Health Minister Tamura Norihisa said, "If the downward trend continues, I expect that most of the affected areas will meet, or will be close to meeting, the criteria for lifting the declaration next Thursday."

Nearly 2,100 new cases were reported across the country on Friday. Tokyo reported 235 new infections.

The number has been under 1,000 for nine consecutive days. Tokyo and 18 other prefectures are currently under a state of emergency.

Experts for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government say it's still too early for people to let their guard down.

Disease Control and Prevention Center Director Ohmagari Norio said, "In preparation for the winter when infections are expected to spread, the number of new cases needs to be lowered further through anti-virus measures and vaccinations."

Experts have called for thorough infection prevention measures even as vaccinations progress.

They note although the shots greatly reduce the risk of severe illness, fully vaccinated people can still become infected and transmit the virus.

A final decision about the state of emergency is set for next week, after Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide returns from the United States.