On Monday, Japan ended the state of emergency restrictions in the last of the prefectures still under the declaration, marking the end of the country’s first phase in its fight against the novel coronavirus.
Following consultations with a panel of infectious disease experts, the government decided it was safe to lift the declaration in Hokkaido, Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures. The other prefectures had emergency restrictions lifted earlier as infection rates in those regions had already reached manageable levels.
Focus returns to reviving the economy
Having lifted the declaration earlier than anticipated, the government seems determined now to get the economy back up and running. Compared to other countries, Japan has succeeded in keeping its COVID-19 death toll low and reduce the number of new infections, thus allowing it to begin the reopening process.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe commended the nation’s success in flattening the curve, allowing it to lift the state of emergency without having to put compulsory lockdown measures in place like the United States and Europe. “I made a judgment that the country as a whole had met the strict standard to lift the state of emergency compared to other countries,” he said at a news conference.
The prime minister also announced the approval of a second supplementary budget to help get the economy back on its feet
Government measures to keep Japan moving forward
The government will begin easing emergency restrictions on events by allowing gatherings of up to 100 people and then gradually increase the numbers to reach up to 50 per cent capacity. Abe said the aim is to get the country to a point where events can be held while also keeping the risk of infection to a minimum.
The prime minister also announced the approval of a second supplementary budget to help get the economy back on its feet. The combined total of the first and second relief packages will amount to roughly ¥200 trillion, which equates to about 40 per cent of Japan’s GDP. The budget will be used to help finance incentives such as employee benefits and rescue plans for small businesses.
As a measure for staying on top of new infection cases, a smartphone app will be introduced in June which will notify people if they have come into contact with someone who has the virus.
Public advised to be vigilant and cautious as emergency restrictions lifted
The government has asked the public to adapt to what it describes as a “new lifestyle” to combat the virus. People are encouraged to wear face masks in public, maintain social distancing measures and to telework where possible. Details of the government’s guidelines are expected to be published soon.
Public health authorities and local governments will remain on high alert to catch any early signs of infection, while implementing the country’s new “test, trace, isolate and support” mantra to avoid further outbreak clusters.
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"Otsumami" - a bite size snack:
The lifting of the state of emergency restrictions now allows Japan to set a course for economic recovery.