Japan lifts state of emergency in remaining areas

NHK -- May 26

The Japanese government has lifted the state of emergency in the last five of the country's 47 prefectures.

The prime minister said it showed the strength of what he called "the Japan model," a reference to the public's adherence to stay-at-home policies without the threat of penalties.

Abe Shinzo said on Monday, "Today the government will lift the state of emergency across the nation. We've set some of the most strict criteria in the world to lift the declaration, and we concluded that prefectures across the country have met that standard."

The final five are Tokyo and three surrounding prefectures, as well as the northernmost island of Hokkaido.

The state of emergency once covered the entire country. But it was scaled back in recent weeks, as the number of new infections declined.

Abe said economic activity will restart in phases. He said he aims to create what he calls a 'new normal' in the country.

"Our businesses and daily routines will be completely disrupted if we continue with strict curbs on social and economic activity," Abe said. "From now on, it's important to think about how we can conduct business and live our lives while still controlling the risk of infection. The government's coronavirus task force is set to meet shortly to finalize the decision."

A short time later, the government's coronavirus task force finalized the decision.

Tokyo Governor Koike Yuriko thanked the people in the greater Tokyo area but urged them to remain cautious.

She said, "There could be a second or third wave of infections so I need to ask the citizens of Tokyo for their continued cooperation."

People had mixed reactions to the expected move, which comes earlier than planned.

One man said, "I'm still worried about a further spread of the infection. We cannot let our guard down yet."

Another man said, "If the state of emergency continues, it will take a very long time to recover. I think the government has made a difficult decision."

In total, more than 16,000 people have tested positive in Japan. Over 800 have lost their lives.