Japan may lift coronavirus emergency ban earlier than expected

May 27, 2020

As the number of new coronavirus cases continues to decline in Japan, its government is likely to lift the state of emergency ban currently in place in Tokyo, Hokkaido, and nearby prefectures, by the end of May 2020. The emergency has already ended in 42 of the country’s 47 prefectures – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will formally decide what to do with the emergency situation for Tokyo and Hokkaido, as well as Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama prefectures, the last remaining areas under the measure.

The coronavirus state of emergencyrequested that people refrain from nonessential outings eventually covered the entire nation, from just urban areas initially. However, an overall downward trend – the Tokyo Metropolitan Government reported only three new coronavirus cases in the capital last Friday, the lowest since a monthlong state of emergency was declared – sets an optimistic direction of decision-making for government officials.

Tokyo has confirmed more than 5,100 cases and 263 deaths so far (COVID-19 infections in Tokyo began increasing rapidly in late March and peaked in mid-April): TokyoGovernorYuriko Koike has laid out a three-step plan to ease virus restrictions in the event the emergency is lifted in the capital and the surrounding prefectures.

In the first step, museums, schools and sports facilities are among facilities that can reopen, without spectator stands. Professional baseball and basketball matches — sans spectators — as well as small events with up to 50 people, can also be held. Schools will begin reopening for students one day a week, and gradually increase the number; they are also to utilise online tutoring. Meanwhile, restaurants and eateries will be able to stay open until 10 p.m. from 8 p.m. previously.

“In order to return to a state of regularity as soon as possible, it’s necessary to devise a road map so society can live a ‘new normal,’ while preventing the spread of the virus and revitalising economic and social activities,” Koike said.

Unfortunately, facilities such as karaoke bars and gyms, which have a history of cluster infections, will continue to be asked to close even in the final phase – restarting operations will depend on policy set by the central government.

UPDATE: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has just announced that the state of emergency declared over the novel coronavirus crisis in the country is over – economic activity in the Tokyo metropolitan area, as well as Hokkaido, Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama prefectures will resume. However, Abe warned that “a re-imposition is possible if infections spike.”


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