Japan lifts emergency in most areas though Tokyo remains on alert

TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Thursday evening that he has lifted the state of emergency for 39 of the country’s 47 prefectures, effective immediately.

Tokyo and the neighboring prefectures of Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama will remain under the decree, along with Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo and Hokkaido.

The state of emergency was to last through May 31.

Although new coronavirus infections in Tokyo and the seven other remaining prefectures have been declining recently, the government wants to remain vigilant against a second wave.

The status of the eight remaining prefectures will be reviewed next Thursday, when their fate will be decided based on the opinions of a panel of experts.

Earlier in the day, that panel concluded that it is safe for the 39 prefectures to emerge from the state of the emergency, including the two heavily populated prefectures of Aichi and Fukuoka.

The panel released criteria for ending the state of emergency, looking at factors including infection rates, health care capacity and testing. A draft cites a target of 0.5 or fewer total cases per 100,000 people over the preceding week.

Economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura in the afternoon told lower house lawmakers that “the emergency measures are no longer necessary in some areas,” considering the infection rate and the state of the medical service system.

One of those areas — Ehime, a southwestern prefecture that has seen a rise in cases due to group infections at a hospital — will need to keep tracking  infections and reporting its situation.

Of the 39 prefectures, Ibaraki, Ishikawa, Gifu, Aichi and Fukuoka were classified as requiring “special caution” due to their large numbers of coronavirus cases.

Residents of areas removed from the state of emergency will be encouraged to continue social distancing and taking other measures.

Japan declared the emergency on April 7 and later extended it to May 31.

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