Japan’s government has decided to lift the state of emergency in Tokyo, its surrounding regions and the northern island of Hokkaido as new virus cases tail off, public broadcaster NHK reported.
The government will put the issue to a meeting of a panel of advisers on Monday, NHK reported, with the move set to bring the state of emergency in the country to an end a week ahead of schedule.
Tokyo reported 14 new coronavirus cases Sunday, the highest since May 16, after just two cases were confirmed on Saturday. The total for the past seven days is 50, below the threshold of 70, or 0.5 people per 100,000, which the government has outlined as being needed to lift the emergency.
“The number of infections is decreasing day by day. That can be seen even in areas where the state of emergency is still in effect,” Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said Sunday morning on NHK. “The situation of the outbreak is improving, and the pressure on the medical system is being relieved.”
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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared an emergency in the capital and some other areas from April 7, later expanding it nationwide. From mid-May he began lifting it in places where the rate of new infections subsided. The Tokyo region -- the worst-hit by the virus -- was the final and largest site of infection.
Tokyo, with its surrounding prefectures of Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama, has a combined population of about 35 million people and an annual output of 182.2 trillion yen ($1.7 trillion), which in global terms would make it the 11th largest economy on the planet.
While a European-style lockdown isn’t legally possible in Japan due to civil liberties enshrined in its postwar constitution, the state of emergency enabled local governments to instruct businesses to close or operate for shortened hours, and to ask residents to stay at home.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has laid out guidelines for reopening the economy as people gradually resume activities kept on hold for almost seven weeks. Neighboring South Korea has already seen a major cluster spread among nightclub-goers after loosening restrictions. Meanwhile, Abe has vowed to work with regional governments to prepare for a second wave of infections that experts say is almost inevitable.
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(Updates with latest Tokyo numbers, state of emergency)
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