Japan to lift state of emergency for 6 regions except Tokyo area at end of February

Source: Xinhua| 2021-02-27 09:14:29|Editor: huaxia

Medical workers wait for consultation after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine at the Tokyo Medical Center in Tokyo, Japan, Feb. 17, 2021. (Behrouz Mehri/Pool via Xinhua)

Aichi, Gifu, Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo and Fukuoka Prefecture in Japan will see the emergency period lifted at the end of February, prior to the initial deadline of March 7.

TOKYO, Feb. 27 (Xinhua) -- Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga Friday said the state of emergency over the novel coronavirus will be lifted one week earlier than planned for six regions, although the Greater Tokyo Area will be kept under the emergency period for the time being.

Aichi, Gifu, Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo and Fukuoka Prefecture will see the emergency period lifted at the end of February prior to the initial deadline of March 7, as infections in these regions as well as the strain on medical facilities have been deemed to have sufficiently improved.

The lifting of the emergency period for the eligible prefectures was finalized at a meeting of the government's coronavirus task force, following a meeting of public health and other experts earlier in the afternoon Friday.

People wearing masks walk on the street in Tokyo, Japan, Jan. 22, 2021. (Xinhua/Du Xiaoyi)

"It's important we don't let our guard down," Suga said at a meeting of the government's coronavirus task force.

Tokyo and three of its surrounding prefectures, however, will remain under the emergency period until at least March 7 provided their situations improve.

As for the Greater Tokyo Area, Suga said measures to curb infections must continue to be thoroughly implemented so the state of emergency can be lifted.

The prefectures allowed to exit early from the emergency virus period were assessed to have improved from the worst on the government's four-tier scale.

The sub-categories within the tiers cover the weekly number of infections per 100,000 people, as well as the percentage of hospital beds available for COVID-19 patients.

Staff members wearing face masks serve passengers at Shinjuku station in Tokyo, Japan, Jan. 22, 2021. (Xinhua/Du Xiaoyi)

The nationwide new daily COVID-19 cases reached just above the 1,000-mark on Thursday, dropping from the single-day record of almost 8,000 recorded in early January when the emergency declaration was issued.

Daily deaths from the virus peaked at 121 in early February, compared to 74 a day earlier, which is still considered comparatively high, experts said.

Under the state of emergency, Japan's second since the outbreak of the pandemic, bars and restaurants have been requested to shorten their opening hours and close their doors by 8:00 p.m.

People have also been asked to work remotely and refrain from making unnecessary trips outdoors, especially in the evenings.

Large-scale events, such as sports competitions, have had their spectator limit capped at 5,000 people.

The government has also introduced fines for people and businesses thwarting specific anti-virus measures.

But the lifting of the state of emergency will be phased, informed sources said, with prefectures possibly allowing restaurants and bars to open until 9:00 p.m., with the cap on large spectator events increased to 10,000 people.

A pedestrian wearing a face mask passes two posters promoting pandemic prevention messages in Tokyo, Japan, Jan. 22, 2021. (Xinhua/Du Xiaoyi)

The head of the Japan Medical Association, Toshio Nakagawa, on Thursday, has once again warned the public not to let their guard down and become too complacent.

"There is a danger it could send the wrong message that everything is all right now," Nakagawa said.

Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister in charge of the COVID-19 response, meanwhile, said in a parliamentary committee session on Friday that the government hopes not to let the public's commitment to anti-virus measures slip by employing a "strategic expansion of infection testing that targets hot spots such as nightlife areas."

Suga first declared a state of emergency for one month to Feb. 7 for the Tokyo metropolitan area, before expanding it to cover 11 prefectures and extending it to March 7 with the exception of Tochigi Prefecture.