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Japan eyes extension of COVID-19 state of emergency

25 May 2021 13:07

TOKYO. KAZINFORM - Health minister Norihisa Tamura said Tuesday the government will consider extending the COVID-19 state of emergency covering Tokyo, Osaka and seven other prefectures beyond the current end date set for early next week, Kyodo reports.

The move comes as infection numbers in Japan's latest coronavirus wave have yet to significantly subside, leaving the medical system under significant strain.

The government, facing criticism for its slow vaccine rollout, opened mass inoculation centers on Monday in the capital and Osaka in a bid to swiftly increase the percentage of the population to have received a shot.

«Keeping an eye on extending the state of emergency, we will make a final decision by taking into account experts' evaluations,» Tamura said at a news conference. The current state of emergency is set to expire next Monday for the nine prefectures, also including Kyoto, Hyogo, Aichi, Fukuoka, Hokkaido, Hiroshima and Okayama.

The government is considering setting the new end date at June 20, the same as Okinawa, which was put under the emergency declaration Sunday, or June 13, according to sources familiar with government discussions.

Tamura said the number of new coronavirus cases in Japan has been declining overall, but there are some areas in which the situation is worsening.

The government will assess whether the infection situation has improved from Stage 4, the worst level on its four-level scale, to Stage 3 and whether it may be closing in on Stage 2, before making the decision on an extension, he said.

Japan's third state of emergency took effect in Tokyo, Osaka, Hyogo and Kyoto on April 25 and was already extended once from the initial end date of May 11.

The affected areas were expanded to Aichi and Fukuoka, then Hokkaido, Okayama and Hiroshima joined, before Okinawa was added.