Japanese government spokesperson raises possibility of emergency extension of COVID-19

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The government spokesperson on Sunday raised the possibility of extending the state of emergency for the coronavirus in Tokyo, Osaka and seven other prefectures beyond its expiration date of May 31.

With the number of new infections remaining high in these areas, the emergency is expected to last for a long time, possibly until June 20.

The government “will discuss the advisability of reducing (the state of emergency) to quasi-urgent measures, or of continuing the declaration for a certain time, then of bringing (the nine prefectures) back to a normal state if the situation improves significantly, “Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said of an NHK program.

In an effort to stem a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has declared a state of emergency for the prefectures of Tokyo, Hokkaido, Aichi, Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Okayama, Hiroshima and Fukuoka – with restaurants and bars invited to at 8 p.m. and not to serve alcohol or do karaoke.

On Sunday, the government officially placed Okinawa Prefecture under a state of emergency until June 20.

Kato indicated that, if extended, a new deadline for the nine prefectures could coincide with the June 20 expiration date for Okinawa.

“We are expected to see questions on setting different timelines for each region, so we will look at them in groups,” he said.

Kato said the government will take into account the number of infections, occupancy rates of hospital beds for COVID-19 patients and data regarding the movement of people when making decisions about lifting emergencies. in the 10 prefectures.

Speaking during the same program, Keiichiro Kobayashi, a professor at Keio University and a member of a government advisory group on the response to COVID-19, warned the government not to rush to end the statements by emergency.

“If the government hastily lifted the statements, it would lead to a rebound (in the number of cases) and put a major drag on the economy,” Kobayashi said, urging the prime minister to think carefully about when to avoid a resurgence. in infections.

As of April 12, Okinawa was in a pre-emergency phase, which allows local authorities to take antivirus measures similar to those in an emergency. Governor Denny Tamaki has called for a state of emergency to cover his prefecture following a recent spike in the number of new infections there.

The prefectural government is asking restaurants and bars offering alcoholic drinks and karaoke to temporarily suspend operations.

On Saturday, the central government ended the pre-emergency phase of the coronavirus for Ehime Prefecture of Shikoku ahead of the initially scheduled expiration date of May 31, based on a ruling that the situation of the prefecture had improved. The number of prefectures on the pre-emergency list is now eight.

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