Japan lifts state of emergency in most prefectures, but not in Tokyo and OsakaEuropost
Japanese PM Shinzo Abe lifted a state of emergency across a large part of the country on Thursday, but said the biggest urban centres of Tokyo and Osaka will remain under restrictions until there is a convincing containment of the new coronavirus. Abe announced the lifting of the emergency in 39 of Japan’s 47 prefectures, as the country strives to balance the damage to the economy from prolonged shutdowns.
Eight prefectures, including Hokkaido, Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto will maintain restrictions for the time being, considering their strained health care systems and fears of potential new outbreaks in urban areas that could spiral out of control. The government will re-evaluate whether to lift the measure in those prefectures next Thursday. Regardless of location, the government will continue to remind the public to maintain social distancing and avoid crowded areas.
The decision to lift the state of emergency before it was set to expire on 31 May, approved by the government panel of infectious disease experts earlier Thursday, is one of the biggest tests for the prime minister in his handling of the global pandemic, which has halted daily activities and pushed the economy to the brink of recession.
Economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who is also in charge of the government’s coronavirus response, said the government will reimpose restrictions if the number of patients increases dramatically again.
As of Thursday morning, more than 16,000 people have been infected with the new coronavirus in Japan and about 700 people have died. Tokyo, where the number of cases is highest, reported only 10 new patients on Wednesday.