Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is looking to keep the state of emergency for Tokyo and Osaka even as he plans to lift it for 39 of the country’s 47 prefectures earlier than scheduled.
Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who heads the country’s response to the virus, said he asked the government’s advisory panel to consider the plan at a meeting Thursday. Abe is expected to formalize the decision later in the day to remove most of the country from the emergency status that was previously set to end May 31. He is scheduled to hold a news conference at 6 p.m.
The emergency in the remaining areas, including the major cities of Tokyo and Osaka, will be reviewed in a week’s time, opening the way for more businesses to resume their operations, public broadcaster NHK said. Abe will also order his government to begin preparing a second extra budget, as the economy reels from the effects of the disease, NHK reported.
More than 16,000 people have been confirmed as infected in Japan, with almost 700 dead — far lower figures than the U.S. and parts of Europe. Tokyo, which has seen by far the worst toll, confirmed just 10 new infections Wednesday, the lowest since March 22.
The emergency was first declared April 6 for some prefectures and later extended nationwide. The state of emergency allows local governments to direct businesses to close and to urge residents to stay in their homes, though there are no penalties for failure to comply.
Nishimura has said weekly infection data, the state of the health care system, and the availability of PCR diagnostic testing and other monitoring methods will be factors in deciding whether to end the emergency.
Many governors in other regions have been urging the government to lift restrictions after seeing severe economic impact, while the number of new infections has fallen close to zero.