Japan's coronavirus state of emergency to be lifted Japan's coronavirus state of emergency to be lifted

Japan's coronavirus state of emergency to be lifted

    NHK World
    Japan's Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide has announced that the coronavirus-related state of emergency will end on Thursday. It will be the first time in nearly six months without any emergency measures in place.

    The current decree covers 19 prefectures including Tokyo and Osaka. Other measures are in effect in eight other prefectures. Suga says the daily count of coronavirus cases nationwide is on the decline, less than half of the hospital beds for coronavirus patients are taken, and the number of serious cases continues to fall since a peak in early September.

    Suga maintains that vaccinations have proven effective: "The light is glowing brighter day by day. We can finally see a return to normal socio-economic activities."

    Graph: COVID-19 Daily Cases in Japan
    Graph: COVID-19 Daily Cases in Tokyo

    The nationwide tally of new cases in the week through Sunday was less than half the figure for the previous week.

    The strain on healthcare is also easing. In the 19 prefectures under the emergency declaration, the occupancy rates of hospital beds overall, as well as for seriously ill patients, are below the criteria for the most serious alert level.

    Takeda Shinhiro, the head of Japan ECMO network, a group of doctors specializing in treating seriously ill patients, says while the Prime Minister has made the right decision, medical staff remain under great strain. He urges people not to let their guards down when the restrictions are lifted.

    Doctor Takeda Shinhiro
    Doctor Takeda Shinhiro says it's reasonable to lift restrictions at this stage.

    The government says it plans to lift anti-virus measures in phases to avoid another surge in cases. Restaurants and bars will be allowed to serve alcohol, but for about a month, bars and restaurants certified for Covid-safe anti-infection measures will be asked to close by 9 pm. Venues without certification will be asked to close by 8 pm.

    Prefectural governors will be allowed to implement additional measures according to the local infection situation.

    Public events will be permitted if spectator numbers are capped at 50 percent of capacity, or 10,000 people, whichever is lower.

    Government officials say they plan to strengthen the medical system to be ready for any resurgence in infection numbers. If there is a spike, authorities could reintroduce some restrictions.

    The leader of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party, Edano Yukio, is urging the government to offer municipalities financial support to ensure any rebound in infections does not lead to the collapse of medical systems, or the shutdown of dining industries.

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