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Japan Aims to Lift COVID-19 State of Emergency in All Areas Except Okinawa

7 prefectures could lift SOE on June 20, but still have intensive preventive measures

The Japanese government is aiming to lift the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) state of emergency in nine prefectures: Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo, Aichi, Fukuoka, Hokkaido, Okayama, and Fukushima. The government plans to extend the state of emergency for a 10th prefecture, Okinawa, until July 11 since the health care system there is still close to capacity.

The government had previously extended the current state of emergency until June 20. Even without the more stringent state of emergency protocols, seven of the affected prefectures – Hokkaido, Tokyo, Aichi, Osaka, Hyogo, Kyoto, and Fukuoka – aim to maintain intensive preventive measures until July 11.

Five more prefectures are not in a state of emergency now, but have already been applying intensive preventive measures. These measures will be lifted on June 20 for Gifu and Mie, but will remain in effect in Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa until July 11.

The government will consult with a committee of infectious disease experts on Thursday regarding these plans. If the plans are approved, they will be finalized at a government task meeting. The committee is also discussing whether to keep some measures in place, and also whether to relax some of the restrictions such as event attendance limits.

The current state of emergency covers over 40% of Japan’s population.

The International Olympic Committee and the Tokyo government still intend to hold the Tokyo Olympics (which was already delayed from last year and rescheduled to July 23-August 8 this year) despite calls from over the majority of Japanese citizens polled and people outside Japan to cancel the games. A fully vaccinated Australian national softball team, consisting of 30 athletes and staff, were the first Olympic athletes to arrive in Japan on June 1, setting up a training camp in Gunma.

Under the extension, the government had asked large department stores and shopping centers (larger than 1,000 square meters or about 10,800 square feet), pachinko parlors, arcades, and public bathhouses to close by at the latest 8:00 p.m. on weekdays, and to close entirely on weekends. The government has also asked events to have no more than 5,000 attendees (or no more than 50% of capacity) and end by 9:00 p.m. Prior to the extension, the government had asked these establishments to close, and for events to have no in-person audiences.

The Japanese government had declared the current state of emergency in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and Hyogo prefectures on April 23. This state of emergency was originally slated to lift on May 11. The state of emergency was intended to curb the amount of travel during the country’s Golden Week holidays in early May. The Japanese government then extended the state of emergency to May 31, and added Aichi and Fukuoka prefectures starting on May 12. The government then added Hokkaido, Okayama, and Hiroshima on May 16. The state of emergency was extended to June 20.

Sources: NHK, NHK World

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