Japan's coronavirus state of emergency ends

Japan's coronavirus state of emergency and quasi-emergency measures have expired. But the government plans to ease anti-virus rules for bars and restaurants in stages while improving the medical system and pushing vaccine rollouts.

The state of emergency for 19 prefectures, including Tokyo and Osaka, and quasi-emergency measures for eight other prefectures ended on Thursday.

This is the first time in about six months that neither emergency nor quasi-emergency measures are in place in any part of the country.

But the government plans to loosen in phases its anti-infection rules for dining establishments, events and other daily activities.

The government will call on unvaccinated people to get tested for the virus when traveling to other prefectures.

It will continue to offer free PCR tests to passengers of flights between the southwestern prefecture of Okinawa and main domestic airports, including Tokyo's Haneda. Okinawa, a major tourist destination, saw a surge in infections in the latest wave of cases.

The government will also continue to promote vaccinations and enhance the healthcare system so that patients can receive medical care as necessary in future possible waves of infections.

The government hopes these arrangements will help people resume normal life while observing steps to guard against infection.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato Katsunobu told a news conference that the government wants people, including those who are inoculated, to keep taking basic anti-virus measures, such as washing hands and wearing masks. He also called on people to avoid crowds and other high-risk situations.