TOKYO (REUTERS) - The Japanese government will end a state of emergency in all but Tokyo and three neighbouring prefectures at the end of this month, a week earlier than scheduled, public broadcaster NHK reported on Friday (Feb 26).
Emergency coronavirus measures will now be removed in Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Aichi, Gifu and Fukuoka prefectures, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters after a meeting of the government's advisory panel, which approved the move.
The government had placed 11 of Japan's 47 prefectures under a state of emergency in January as a third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic swept the nation.
One of those prefectures, Tochigi, had already emerged early from the government-designated emergency state.
Coronavirus infections have declined significantly across the country since peaking in early January, including in the capital, Tokyo, and the government is hoping to lift the state of emergency in the remaining four prefectures as planned on March 7, NHK said.
Under the latest measures, Japan has asked bars and restaurants to close by 8pm and companies to strive for more telecommuting. It has also suspended a popular "Go To Travel"subsidised tourism programme.
"But the lifting comes with conditions," Mr Nishimura said, adding that experts on the panel wanted close monitoring of the spread of new strains of the virus and a sufficient supply of hospital beds.
They also expressed concern about a potential resurgence in cases as restrictions are eased, warning against complacency, he said.
"Especially with young people, there was concern that the lifting would have a psychological impact," said Mr Nishimura, who oversees the government's coronavirus response.
"We need to keep strict anti-infection measures in place." Under emergency measures, Japan asks bars and restaurants to close by 8 p.m. and companies to strive for more telecommuting.
Japan has recorded about 426,000 coronavirus cases and 7,645 deaths as of Feb. 24, according to the health ministry.