Japan to extend virus emergency until May 31

TOKYO: The Japanese government prepared on Monday to extend its state of emergency across the country until the end of May as it prepares for a long battle against the pandemic.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe It declared an initial one-month state of emergency for Tokyo and six other regions on April 7, then expanded it to cover the entire country.

It will expire on Wednesday, but Abe is expected to announce an extension to May 31 after consulting infectious disease experts.

He must explain the government's decision at a press conference later on Monday.

Governor of Tokyo Yuriko Koike He said he had asked Abe's minister responsible for the Yasutoshi virus outbreak about the government's plan for an extension.

The minister told me they were preparing him for an extension until May 31, Koike said in a video message to residents on Sunday night.

When experts met Monday, Nishimura warned that the battle against the virus was far from over.

Preparing ourselves for the fact that it will take a long time to deal with this infectious disease, I would like you to come up with concrete examples of a new way of life that allows people to prevent infections while maintaining social and economic activities. he told an expert meeting.

Japan's state of emergency is significantly less restrictive than measures seen in parts of Europe and the United States. It allows governors to urge people to stay home and ask companies to remain closed.

But officials cannot compel citizens to comply, and there are no penalties for those who do not.

Local reports said the government will continue to urge residents of 13 high-risk prefectures, including Japan's largest cities, to reduce person-to-person contact by 80 percent and exercise other strict rules of social distancing.

But museums, libraries, and some other facilities are likely to be able to reopen as long as they take anti-virus measures.

For the rest of Japan, prefectures will be allowed to loosen restrictions on business closings and small gatherings, but residents will be asked not to travel outside their home regions. Bars and nightclubs will be asked to remain closed.

Japan has reported a comparatively small outbreak, with more than 15,000 infections and 510 deaths so far.

But there have been lingering fears about a spike in infections that could quickly overwhelm the country's health system.

Medical associations have warned that hospitals are already very thin, and officials have even asked for donations of raincoats to serve as protective equipment for healthcare workers caught using trash bags.

Measures have been put in place to try to relieve the pressure, including sending coronavirus patients with mild symptoms to quarantined hotels rather than keeping them in overcrowded hospitals.

The government has also said it is increasing testing capacity, but continues to face criticism for the relatively low number of tests being conducted, in part due to strict criteria.