Govt. experts approve ending COVID emergency

Japan's coronavirus advisory panel has approved a government plan to end the state of emergency and quasi-measures when the terms expire on Thursday.

Economic Revitalization Minister Nishimura Yasutoshi briefed the experts on Tuesday about the government plan.

He said new case counts have considerably declined across the country and the number of seriously ill people has fallen to less than half the peak levels.

Nishimura noted that hospital bed occupancy rates are below 50 percent in all areas and the strain on healthcare has noticeably improved.

The state of emergency is currently in place in Tokyo, Osaka and 17 other prefectures. Quasi-measures are in effect in eight prefectures.

Nishimura added that if various activities resume, the number of infections will rise, so necessary measures will stay in place to prevent resurgences.

He explained that dining establishments will be allowed to serve alcohol, but prefectural governors will make decisions according to the infection situation.

He said that for about a month, eateries that local municipalities or other authorities have certified as having anti-infection measures in place will in principle be asked to close by 9 p.m. and other places will be requested to close by 8 p.m.

Nishimura said dining establishments that comply will be subsidized and the government will continue to finance 80 percent of the subsidies.

He said that for about a month, events will be allowed to take place if spectator numbers are limited to 50 percent of capacity or 10,000 people, whichever is lower.

Nishimura said that after the measures are lifted, the government plans to ease anti-virus steps in stages. He said preparations will be made for resurgences in winter and to strengthen and sustain the healthcare system.

He said if infections start to increase again, the government will work with prefectures and flexibly take necessary steps including quasi-measures.

The government will inform Diet committees later in the day and hold question and answer sessions.

Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide is expected to hold a news conference from around 7 p.m., after the plan is made official in a coronavirus task force meeting late in the afternoon.

A state of emergency has been in place in Tokyo for about two-and-a-half months and in Okinawa for roughly four months. This will be the first time since April 4 that Japan will be free of coronavirus emergency and quasi-measures.