Japan eyes lifting virus emergency early in 6 prefectures

Baku, February 24, AZERTAC

Japan is considering lifting the state of emergency declared in six prefectures over the coronavirus pandemic ahead of its scheduled end date on March 7, government sources said Tuesday, according to Kyodo News.

The declaration is likely to be lifted by this weekend in the six prefectures of Aichi, Gifu, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo and Fukuoka due to sufficient improvement in their situations.

Tokyo and its three nearby prefectures, however, are set to remain under the virus emergency until the original end date as their situation has not substantially improved.

Earlier in the day, the governors of Kyoto, Osaka and Hyogo had made a joint request to economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who is leading the country's response to the pandemic, citing improvements in the number of hospital beds available for COVID-19 patients and the slowing pace of infections.

Aichi Gov. Hideaki Omura also made a similar request, while Gifu Gov. Hajime Furuta indicated that the declaration would ideally be lifted in his prefecture at the same time as Aichi.

The four governors of Tokyo, which remains the hardest-hit among Japan's 47 prefectures, and the three surrounding prefectures of Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa agreed in a teleconference not to request the lifting of the declaration ahead of schedule.

The metropolitan area has been seeing a slowdown in the decline of coronavirus cases. But Chiba and Kanagawa are now seeing a rise in new daily COVID-19 cases.

Suga is expected to make a decision on the early lifting for the six prefectures at a meeting Wednesday of relevant ministers including Nishimura and health minister Norihisa Tamura based on the latest expert analysis.

If they decide to move forward with lifting the declaration early, they will consult with a panel of health experts on Friday before finalizing the decision at a government taskforce meeting, the sources said.

Suga may also announce at the taskforce meeting his intention to lift the emergency for Tokyo and its three nearby prefectures on March 7 as scheduled.

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