Japan govt. extends coronavirus state of emergency

NHK -- Sep 10
Japan's government is extending the coronavirus state of emergency in many parts of the country. It will remain in place for 19 prefectures, including Tokyo and Osaka, until the end of September.

Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide says new infections are declining across the country, but warns the number of serious cases remains high.

Suga said, "Experts say we should consider various factors when deciding whether to lift the emergency declaration. These include hospital occupancy rate, the number of seriously ill patients, the number of new cases, the number of people isolating at home, and the extent to which the vaccines are improving the situation. So we made our decision based on these points."

Suga stressed that the government would finish giving shots to everyone who wants them in October or November.

He added the government plans to ease restrictions, using a system that checks vaccination certificates or negative test results.

The state of emergency is currently in place for 21 prefectures and was set to run through Sunday.

Under the new plan, Miyagi and Okayama prefectures will shift to less strict quasi-emergency measures.

The minister in charge of the coronavirus response says the medical system remains strained in most areas under the state of emergency.

The health ministry says there are nearly 2,200 COVID-19 patients across Japan who are in serious condition.

Officials say they are focused on bolstering the medical system and making sure new cases will keep declining.

Japan's state of emergency is less rigid than lockdowns in other countries.

The government calls on people to avoid crowds and work from home as much as possible. It urges bars and restaurants not to serve alcohol and to close early.

Department stores and shopping malls are asked to limit customers. And major event venues have been told to restrict audiences.

Authorities across Japan confirmed more than 10,000 coronavirus infections on Thursday.

Suga has already announced he is not seeking reelection as leader of the main ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

The move means he is effectively stepping down as Prime Minister. Suga emphasized the decision was so he could focus entirely on fighting the coronavirus.

Suga said, "My duty as Prime Minister is to lay the groundwork for us to overcome the current crisis and return to our normal lives with a sense of security."

He added, "I will continue to devote myself to the duties of the office until my very last day as Prime Minister."

Suga also touted his achievements of the past year.

He said he was proud of his work accelerating the vaccination rollout, strengthening the Japan-US alliance, and hosting the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Suga was pressed by reporters on who he would back as his successor. He said he would decide on September 17, when official campaigning starts.

The LDP leadership election will take place on September 29.