- “We had very stringent criteria for lifting the state of emergency. We have judged that we have met these criteria,” Abe said.
- “If we lower our guard, the infection will spread very rapidly . . . we need to be vigilant,” he said.
- Japan has so far avoided the major outbreaks that have occurred in the United States and Europe, despite having applied milder restrictions.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe today announced the total lifting of the state of emergency that was still in effect in some of the country’s regions, including in Tokyo, the nation’s capital city. “Today we will lift the state of emergency nationwide,” said Abe, during a live press conference broadcast on public broadcaster NHK.
“We had very stringent criteria for lifting the state of emergency. We have judged that we have met these criteria,” he added. The Prime Minister, however, explained that the lifting of the emergency does not mean that the country was now totally free of the deadly pandemic.
He said that his administration’s goal is to balance preventive measures and economic interests until vaccines and effective drugs become available. Abe equally implored the nation’s citizens to remain cautious and to continue to avoid the “three Cs”: closed spaces, crowded places, and close contact.
“If we lower our guard, the infection will spread very rapidly . . . we need to be vigilant,” he said. “We need to create a new lifestyle; from now on, we need to change our way of thinking.”
The move to lift the state of emergency was embraced thanks to the sharp decrease in the number of new cases of the disease in the country, as the Prime Minister elaborated. “Recently, new infection cases have fallen below 50 for the entire nation, and what was once nearly 10,000 hospitalized cases, that has now fallen below 2,000,” Abe told reporters on Monday.
The decision was arrived at by experts from a panel chosen by the government to asses the lifting of the measure in Tokyo, in the neighboring regions of Kanagawa, Chiba, and Saitama and in Hokkaido, to the north, which still remained under a state of emergency. Initially planned to be in effect until May 6, the state of emergency was extended until May 31.
However, the situation changed, and the government decided to suspend the measure earlier. This happened on May 14 in 39 of the 47 municipalities, and on Thursday in Kyoto, Hyogo, and Osaka.
The state of emergency was declared on April 7 in Tokyo and six other regions, before being extended to the entire country in a context of strong acceleration in the number of new daily cases of contagion since the end of March.
Japan, with about 16,600 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, and about 850 deaths, has so far avoided the major outbreaks that have occurred in the United States and Europe, despite having applied milder restrictions.
Globally, according to a report by the news agency AFP, the COVID-19 pandemic has so far caused more than 343,000 deaths and infected more than 5.3 million people in 196 countries and territories. More than two million patients were considered cured. The disease is transmitted by a new coronavirus detected in late December in Wuhan, China.
After Europe overtook China as the center of the pandemic in February, the American continent now has the most confirmed cases (more than 2.4 million, to 2 million on the European continent). However, there have been fewer deaths so far (more than 143,000 to almost 174,000).