Japan lifts emergency for 39 prefectures except Tokyo, Osaka
Thirty-nine out of Japan's 47 prefectures will lift their state of emergency, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Thursday while the other eight prefectures, including Tokyo and Osaka, will remain under the state of emergency.
"Japan will lift a state of emergency for 39 of the country's 47 prefectures ahead of its planned expiration at the end of the month, as the spread of the novel coronavirus in these areas has been kept in check," Abe said in a nationally televised news conference.
The 39 prefectures whose state of emergency has been lifted account for 54 percent of Japan's population, but the greater Tokyo area accounts for a third of the economy.
The Japanese government will decide what to do about the remaining prefectures on May 21.
The state of emergency is still in force in Tokyo, the country's capital, and in the second-largest urban area, Osaka, as he tries to cushion the economic blow while stopping the spread of the virus.
Abe said he would begin work on a second extra budget and that as part of the economic stimulus, the government would take more steps to ease corporate funding strains, if needed.
"While controlling the spread of the virus as much as possible by acting on the premise that the virus is all around us, we will restore ordinary work and daily life," Abe told the media at a news conference.
The eastern Asian country first declared a state of emergency for seven prefectures, including Tokyo, Osaka and Fukuoka on April 7. Later in the month, the government expanded it nationwide.
The state of emergency gives governors more authority to tell people to stay at home and close schools and businesses, but there is no penalty for non-compliance.
Some non-essential businesses, even in areas hit hard by the coronavirus, have started to reopen, even before Thursday's announcement, and the scope of restrictions has varied across the country.
On May 4, two days before the May 6 deadline, Abe announced the extension of a nationwide state of emergency until the end of May.
According to national broadcaster NHK, Japan has reported 16,171 confirmed cases, including 5,027 in Tokyo, as of Thursday afternoon at 6. The latest death toll in Japan stands at 702.
(Cover: A large screen on a building shows a live broadcast of Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's news conference on Japan's response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at Shinjuku district in Tokyo, Japan May 14, 2020. /Reuters)