Japan to end COVID-19 emergency measures nationwide this week: Suga

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Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga

Tokyo [Japan], September 28 (ANI/Xinhua): The Japanese government will end this week the COVID-19 state of emergency in Tokyo and 18 prefectures as well as the quasi-state of emergency in other areas, as the number of infections declined steadily, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Tuesday.

Japan's coronavirus advisory panel has approved a government plan to end the state of emergency and quasi-measures on Thursday as scheduled.

It would be the first time since April 4 that none of Japan's 47 prefectures is under either a state of emergency or a quasi-state of emergency.

"The number of new COVID-19 cases and patients with severe symptoms have dramatically declined," Suga said at a committee meeting at the House of Representatives.

He said, "We will enhance social response to the spread of infections through vaccinations and health care system enhancement among other steps and work on balancing antivirus measures and restoring normal lives."

As Suga said on Monday, all the society must continue to be highly cautious and need to ease restrictions gradually, including for dining, and the government would relax restrictions in stages with local governors having responsibilities to make decisions during the lifting process.

"Serving alcohol will be made possible, but governors will decide on that appropriately," Yasutoshi Nishimura, minister in charge of Japan's COVID-19 response, said at the experts' panel meeting.

Under the state of emergency, establishments serving alcohol or offering karaoke services are asked to suspend their business, and those not serving liquor are requested to close at 8:00 p.m. local time.

The central government would continue to ask foods establishments to close by 8 p.m. and those taking sufficient anti-COVID-19 measures by 9 p.m. for one more month, but no restrictions on serving alcohol.

Establishments that continue to comply with such requests would receive financial support from the government, Nishimura said, adding that such shortening of opening hours would be eased gradually.

He also said that the maximum number of spectators allowed for major sporting events would be raised to 10,000 or half of the venue's capacity from the current 5,000 once the emergency statuses end.

However, as winter approaches, Japan still has the risk of another wave of infections. Nishimura said at the panel meeting if the number of infections rebounded again, the government would take necessary measures including implementing a quasi-state of emergency.

Due to a resurgence of COVID-19 infections, a state of emergency was declared for Tokyo on July 12, covering the full period of Olympics and Paralympics and consequently leading to few or no spectators at the games' venues.

In August, with the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, the nationwide daily infections peaked at about 25,000, and many other areas introduced the emergency measure.

Suga, who announced his intent to resign earlier this month, said at a Liberal Democratic Party gathering in the morning, "Thanks to the cooperation of many people, I can lift the state of emergency during my tenure."

His successor is set to be elected on Wednesday. (ANI/Xinhua)

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