The Japanese government has confirmed it will lift Covid-19 state of emergency measures on Thursday, marking the first time in nearly six months that no prefectures will be under that level of restriction, after infections fell.
Speaking to a Covid-19 task force meeting, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga praised officials for the “progress in vaccination and administration of neutralising antibody drugs,” allowing the country to ensure medical services are “stable” and able to cope with the level of infections.
The decision to lift the state of emergencies comes after “the number of new coronavirus cases and patients with severe symptoms have dramatically declined,” Suga stated in the House of Representatives.
When the measures end on Thursday, it will be the first time since April 4 that none of the country’s 47 prefectures have been under a state of emergency or quasi-state of emergency. While the state of emergency measures are wrapping up, there will be some restrictions still in place for another month, with restaurants and bars expected to close by 8pm local time or those with stricter Covid-19 safety measures by 9pm.
The Delta variant sent cases spiking in Japan earlier this year, with the government imposing restrictions covering around 80% of the country’s population until the end of this month to curb the rise in infections. In the summer, the Tokyo Olympics was forced to be held without spectators due to the prevalence of the virus and the risk of a wider outbreak at the time that would have overwhelmed medical facilities.
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Since the start of the pandemic, Japan has recorded over 1.6 million confirmed cases of the virus, and 17,482 deaths. As of September, a total of 144 million Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered by health officials.