TOKYO () – The state of emergency that Jan set up to curb the spread of coronavirus is being lifted in six urban areas this weekend and will remain in the Tokyo area for another week, a government minister said on Friday.
Partial lifting of the emergency and only a week early underscores Jan’s eagerness to keep business restrictions to a minimum to keep the economy afloat.
The emergency, which began in January, is about asking restaurants, bars and other businesses to close at 6 p.m. 20.00
Jan has never had a lockdown, but has managed to keep infections relatively low, with deaths related to COVID-19 of about 7,600 people so far.
Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister responsible for pandemic measures, told a special government panel that the emergency would be lifted in Aichi, Gifu, Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo, central Jan and southwestern Fukuoka.
Tokyo and the surrounding prefectures of Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa will continue to monitor the emergency until March 7, although an official decision has not yet been announced.
Concerns have grown because deaths have risen since the end of last year. The rollout of the vaccine has hardly begun and the general population is not expected to get shots for several months.
Concern remains that lifting the emergency too quickly sends the wrong message when hospitals in some areas are packed.
Shigeru Omi, a doctor sitting on a government panel of coronavirus experts, warned that caution was still needed.
“The prevalence of infections has certainly decreased, but the pace of the light bulbs is stopping,” he told parliament on Friday.
Since last year, the Janese economy has been slammed by the decline in consumption, tourism, exports and production.
The schools are open and some commuter trains are still crowded. But people are encouraged to work from home, and almost everyone wears masks.
Concerns about health risks have raised doubts about the Tokyo Olympics, postponed from last year and expected to start in July. Officials have said the games are underway, although vaccination efforts have not been completed.
Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter: https://twitter.com/yurikageyama