Japan's Prime Minister Abe lifts COVID-19 state of emergency

Japan lifts state of emergency across whole country

Abe stated that the lifting of the State of Emergency does not mean that the country has reached the end of the outbreak and that the "goal is to balance preventive measures and the economy until vaccines and effective drugs become available".

"Recently, new infection cases have fallen below 50 for the entire nation, and what was once almost 10,000 hospitalised cases, that has now fallen below 2,000", Abe told reporters on Monday.

But on April 7, with cases beginning to spike and fears for the country's health system, Abe declared a state of emergency for Tokyo and six other regions - later expanding it to cover the entire nation.

Social distancing curbs had been loosened for most of the country on May 14 as new infections fell, but the government was keeping Tokyo and four other prefectures under watch.

While Japan has suffered far fewer coronavirus infections and deaths than any of its Group of Seven peers, Abe's handling of the outbreak has reinforced concerns that his government has grown complacent after seven years in power.

"It was acknowledged that the state of emergency measure was not necessary for all the prefectures and the declaration for lifting (the state of emergency) was approved", said Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister in charge of the virus response. Hokkaido had lifted its own three-week state of emergency on March 19, only to declare a second state of emergency on April 12.

In Tokyo, the number of new infections over the past week was below 0.5 per 100,000 people, fulfilling one of the criteria for lifting the emergency declaration. "From now on, we just have to think about how we can conduct business and live normal lives while still controlling the risk of infection".

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a news conference that reviving the economy was now the top priority, and his government would decide tomorrow on a second extra budget to help people and businesses reeling from the pandemic. Recent media surveys show public support for his Cabinet has plunged below 30%, the lowest since he returned to office in December 2012.

If the number of coronavirus cases remains low, then Tokyo can move onto stage two, which includes reopening cinemas and tutoring centres, such as cram schools. That would allow libraries and museums to reopen, and restaurants to stay open until later in the evening.

"Recently, new infection cases have fallen below 50 for the entire nation", Abe said, "and what was once almost 10,000 hospitalized cases - that has now fallen below 2,000". Another 27 trillion yen ($250 billion) would be set aside for other aid including capital injections for ailing firms, the paper stated. The prime minister has already said the latest round of help will offer more support to companies through loans and rent subsidies, improved income support for furloughed workers and help for university students.

Japan's economy slipped into recession in the last quarter, and analysts expect another 22 per cent contraction in April-June.



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