The Japanese government decided on Thursday to lift the state of health alert for coronavirus in most of the national territory, where infections have been significantly reduced, although it will continue in force in the Tokyo region.
“We have made this decision after consulting with experts and seeing that the objective criterion of slowing down the number of infections has been met in the last two weeks,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe explained at a press conference.
In this way, in 39 of the 47 prefectures of Japan, the restrictions and recommendations applied in the framework of the state of emergency to combat the virus can be progressively lifted, before meeting the deadline of May 31 initially set by the central executive.
The alert will continue, however, to be in force in two of the most inhabited metropolitan areas of the country, Tokyo and Osaka, in addition to Chiba, Saitama, Kanagawa, Hokkaido, Kyoto and Hyogo, to ensure that the number of new cases continues to drop and guarantee that hospitals do not reach the limit of their capacity.
In Tokyo and Osaka there has been a 60% decrease in daily infections, “but this is not enough” because there is still a lot of pressure on medical facilities in both regions and a high number of patients who need respiratory assistance, he said Abe.
The government will hold a new meeting on the 21st next with the group of health experts that analyzes the evolution of the pandemic, and could then raise the alert status in the rest of the country “if the requirements are met,” Abe said.
The Japanese Prime Minister thanked the citizens for their collaboration in complying with the recommendations to stay at home and minimize social contact, since the Japanese authorities did not impose a mandatory confinement similar to that applied in other countries.
To prevent further contagion from occurring when the state of emergency is lifted, Abe said the return to normal will be “gradual” and will include “extensive measures” as guidelines for the reopening of shops, restaurants and public facilities.
“With the collaboration of the population, I would like to promote the establishment of a new lifestyle,” said Abe, who specifically called to avoid closed spaces and crowds, to reduce close contact between people, to wear a mask whenever leave home and avoid karaokes or nightclubs, places “that have been sources of contagion”.
“LONG ROAD LEFT”
Abe was willing to resort to a state of emergency again in the event of a spike in infections, noting that “there is a long way to go” in the fight against the pandemic in which “no one has the definitive answer on how to defeat the virus” .
The Japanese leader also pointed out that the Government will increase the number of daily tests carried out, both of the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) and antigens, a faster method and recently approved by the Government.
Japan has so far detected some 16,700 cases of COVID-19 and 700 deaths (including figures linked to the Diamond Princess cruise), with 31% of infections concentrated in Tokyo.