Japan mulls Tokyo’s exit from emergency

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said it was too early to determine if the Covid-19 state of emergency in place for the Tokyo region could be lifted on March 21 as planned, although according to a senior administration official, an exit “looked likely”.

Addressing an upper house budget committee session on Monday, Suga said that a final decision will be made after consulting with experts, although informed sources have said there could be an early exit from the emergency period for the greater Tokyo area, with a possible announcement on Thursday, reports Xinhua news agency.

This, according to the sources, is down to declining infections and an improvement in the situation of hospitals in the capital and its surrounding prefectures that were previously overburdened, but now have more beds available to treat patients.

The Health Ministry is expected to assess the situation on Wednesday, the sources said, with Suga likely to announce the decision on the state of emergency deadline for the Tokyo region possibly as soon as Thursday.

Suga will also hold discussions with his cabinet on whether the COVID-19 situation in the greater Tokyo area has improved enough to lift the emergency period,.

The Prime Minister himself has said there has been a decline in new cases recently, while according to Shigeru Omi, head of the government’s Covid-19 subcommittee, extending the state of emergency would not be a “real solution”.

Tokyo on Monday reported 175 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the capital’s tally to 115,584.

The local government and health officials said the seven-day average of daily cases stood at 287.6, which is 113.5 per cent of the average for the previous week.

The seven-day average remained high of late and above the metropolitan government’s aim to keep the figure below 70 per cent of the previous week.

Under the current state of emergency, restaurants and bars must close by 8 p.m. and people are being urged to avoid leaving home unnecessarily, particularly in the evenings.

Businesses are requested to promote remote working, while attendees at large-scale events have been capped at 5,000 people.

The Japanese leader declared a month-long state of emergency for the greater Tokyo area on January 7, before expanding the emergency measure to a total of 11 prefectures.

It was then extended for another month for the majority of prefectures to March 7 and then by two more weeks to March 21 for Tokyo, Saitama, Kanagawa and Chiba prefectures.