TOKYO: The Japanese government lifted its state of emergency over the novel coronavirus in six prefectures at midnight Sunday (3 p.m. GMT), while keeping the emergency in place in the Tokyo metropolitan area.
The emergency was removed in the western prefectures of Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo, the central prefectures of Aichi and Gifu and the southwestern prefecture of Fukuoka, ahead of the scheduled expiration on March 7.
In Tokyo and the neighboring prefectures of Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa, which remain under the emergency, the government will promote full measures to prevent infections in order to achieve the full removal of the emergency on March 7 as planned.
After the lifting of the emergency, the six prefectures plan to relax in stages their requests for shorter operating hours at restaurants and bars.
During the state of emergency, store operators that agreed to close by 8 p.m. received benefits of 60,000 yen per day. After the end of the emergency, operators will receive 40,000 in daily benefits in principle if they agree to close by 9 p.m. and 20,000 yen if they open after 9 p.m. but close earlier than usual.
The local governments will be given discretion in deciding the amount of benefits in accordance with the scale of sales at each restaurant and bar.
These measures are designed to promote efforts to normalize economic activities while at the same time taking measures to prevent the spread of infections.
The central government decided Friday to lift the state of emergency in the six prefectures in view of an improvement in the infection situations and the availability of medical services.
In Tokyo and the three surrounding prefectures, the government will continue to ask restaurants and bars to close by 8 p.m., residents to avoid going out for nonessential purposes and businesses to cut the number of employees who come to office by 70 pct through the use of teleworking.
Government officials caution against any letup in anti-infection efforts, since the pace of drops in the number of new infection cases has slowed down and the bed occupancy rates for COVID-19 patients remain high.
The government will hold a meeting of its coronavirus task force, possibly on Friday, to determine whether the state of emergency can be lifted on March 7.