Three prefectures — Kyoto, Osaka and Hyogo — are set to ask the central government to lift the coronavirus state of emergency at the end of the month, ahead of its end date on March 7, officials have said.
The prefectural governors were to hold an online meeting Tuesday with economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who is leading the country’s response to the pandemic.
The governor of Aichi Prefecture, meanwhile, has said he has already made a similar request with the central government.
The state of emergency, Japan’s second over the pandemic, was initially declared for one month on Jan. 7. It covered 11 prefectures including Tokyo and neighboring prefectures. The emergency was later extended through March 7 for 10 of the prefectures.
Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike remains cautious about lifting the emergency in the capital, which continues to see a “severe” infection situation.
Koike also said she is planning to hold an online meeting Tuesday with the governors of neighboring Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures.
“We’re not in a situation where we should ask for an early lifting,” a senior metropolitan government official said.
Kyoto, Osaka and other prefectures that hope to have the emergency lifted have cited improvements in the number of hospital beds available for COVID-19 patients and the slowing pace of infections.
“New cases of infection have remained in double-digit levels for days. (The state of emergency) should be lifted at the end of this month as we expect the number of hospitalized patients to fall even further,” Aichi Gov. Hideaki Omura said at a news conference.
Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura said his prefecture would discuss coordinated anti-virus measures with neighboring Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures Tuesday before filing their official requests. Officials in Gifu Prefecture, which sits adjacent to Aichi, have also suggested it will follow suit.
Kyoto Gov. Takatoshi Nishiwaki said that even if the state of emergency is lifted, the prefecture would continue to ask restaurants and bars to shorten business hours.
Japan has seen a decline in daily coronavirus infections but health ministry officials said last week the reduction was not sufficient to ease concern about the strain on the medical system.
Tokyo, which remains the hardest hit of Japan’s 47 prefectures, has seen a decrease in new cases, with 178 reported Monday — the first time the count fell below 200 since Nov. 24. The tally lifted the Japanese capital’s cumulative cases to 109,912.
The rate of infections among elderly people, considered at higher risk of developing severe symptoms, has been rising, however, with daily deaths in the capital often entering double digits.
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