Japan Could Lift Emergency in Tokyo as Soon as Monday

(Bloomberg) -- Japan could lift the state of emergency in Tokyo and surrounding prefectures as soon as Monday, if current trends continue, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said.

The measure was lifted Thursday for Osaka and the two adjoining prefectures of Kyoto and Hyogo after the move was endorsed by a government panel of health experts earlier in the day. The emergency declaration will stay in effect for Tokyo and surrounding prefectures, as well as for the northern island of Hokkaido, for the time being, he said.

Japan Could Lift Emergency in Tokyo as Soon as Monday

New infections are declining in the areas remaining under the declaration and their medical systems are less stretched than they were, Abe said.

“The government will do its best in order to protect people’s lives,” he said, adding he would work with regional governors to prepare for a potential second wave of infections.

Japan has seen a steady fall in its new confirmed infections over the past few weeks and its overall numbers for Covid-19 cases and deaths are the lowest among the Group of Seven leading democracies. Abe last week lifted the state of emergency for 39 of the country’s 47 prefectures and now looks likely to remove it across the nation before the planned expiry of May 31.

Lifting the emergency would help re-open more parts of the virus-battered economy, which sank last quarter into a recession, data this week showed. Abe said last week the government was preparing a second extra budget to aid people and businesses reeling from the effects of the pandemic that includes handouts to help with rent, and raises the maximum subsidy for furloughed workers to 15,000 yen ($140) a day.

The troubles for the world’s third-largest economy are likely to deepen further as households limit spending to essentials and companies cut back on investment, production and hiring to stay afloat. Analysts see a 21.5% contraction this quarter, a record for official data going back to 1955.

Tokyo, neighboring Kanagawa and Hokkaido were slightly above the government threshold of 0.5 new cases per 100,000 people in a week, Kyodo News reported.

The state of emergency, first declared in some areas on April 6, allows local governments to direct businesses to close and to urge residents to stay in their homes, though there are no penalties for failure to comply.

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