The COVID-19 quasi-state of emergency ended March 22 in all 18 prefectures covered, including Tokyo and Osaka, amid a declining trend in the number of new cases.
It is the first time since Jan. 8 for Japan to have no emergency measures in place. But concerns remain that coronavirus cases could rise again, driven by the highly contagious omicron subvariant BA.2, with movements of people expected to increase significantly as the business and academic year ends in the coming days.
The government formally decided March 17 to lift the quasi-emergency based on new criteria, including allowing it to end if the strain on the health care system is expected to ease despite infection numbers staying at high levels.
In some regions, the occupancy rate of designated hospital beds was above 50% as of March 18, according to the health ministry, indicating a continuing burden on the health care system.
Since the beginning of this year, the quasi-state of emergency, which allowed governors to request restaurants and bars to close early and stop serving alcohol, had been in place in as many as 36 of the nation’s 47 prefectures.
A quasi-emergency is more limited in terms of coverage and restrictions than a full state of emergency.(Kyodo)