Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on May 4 extended the nationwide state of emergency until the end of May to reduce new coronavirus infections in Japan amid nascent signs of the epidemic leveling off.
Abe said extending the state of emergency that was due to expire May 6 was necessary to remove some of the strain on hospitals overcrowded with COVID-19 patients.
Acknowledging that “strict curbs” on social and economic activities cannot last long, he said “new lifestyles” should be adopted without lowering the guard against the virus in gradually returning to normalcy.
“The one-month period is designed for us to prepare for the next step and put an end to the state of emergency,” Abe said during a televised news conference.
The number of daily reported cases has fallen to about a third of its peak — from 700 to 200 — but it should fall below 100, Abe said. Japan has so far confirmed about 16,000 cases, with over 560 deaths.
Abe reiterated his call for an 80% cut in person-to-person contact in 13 prefectures such as Tokyo and Osaka that require “special caution,” and stressed that people avoid the “3 C’s” — confined spaces, crowded places and close contact.
Abe said experts will make a fresh assessment around May 14 and the state of emergency could be lifted before the end of the month if the situation allows. (Kyodo)