Less than a week before the extended state of emergency was set to expire, Hokkaido, Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama can now join the rest of the country and begin reopening. The decreasing number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the prefectures led Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to lift the order for the whole country.
Originally implemented on April 7 in Tokyo and other parts of Japan, the state of emergency has been gradually easing since May 14, starting with 39 prefectures reporting low numbers of coronavirus cases. On May 21, the order was lifted in Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo.
After consulting with the government advisory team of infectious disease experts, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the Japanese government decided to lift the state of emergency early. One of the requirements to lift the ban was for the number of new cases to fall below 0.5 per 100,000 people, which means there must be less than 70 new cases in Tokyo. Last week’s number of cases in Tokyo reached 50. The move means the country can work towards kick-starting the economy while simultaneously trying to keep the number of cases down. The infection situation will continue to be evaluated every three weeks.
The Tokyo government has already announced its three-step post-emergency plan, starting with reopening museums and allowing restaurants to open until 10pm. Even when the state of emergency is lifted, residents must exercise caution and continue to wear masks, practise social distancing and avoid crowds and enclosed spaces. The government is also strongly discouraging travel between prefectures until the end of May. If the number of coronavirus cases spike again, emergency measures may be reimplemented.
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