Even though the declaration of a state of emergency has been lifted, it will take time to return to normal life. It is hoped that restrictions on the movement of people and other activities will be gradually eased while thorough measures are taken to prevent infections.
The central government has lifted the declaration of a state of emergency over the new coronavirus in 39 prefectures. The declaration had been extended nationwide until the end of this month, but these prefectures have been removed from the list earlier than scheduled. Eight prefectures, including Tokyo, continue to be under a state of emergency.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that he hoped to “return to everyday life while controlling the infection risk.”
Many people have for a long time cooperatively complied with calls to refrain from going outside and suspend business operations. On the other hand, the economy has been seriously affected. It is reasonable to allow the movement of people and socioeconomic activities in areas where infections have subsided.
The central government has set specific criteria for lifting the declaration, including the number of cases, sufficient medical services and testing being expanded.
For the number of cases, it cited “0.5 or fewer new infections per 100,000 people in the past week.”
In light of these criteria, Chiba Prefecture should have been subject to the lifting of the declaration, but the central government maintained a state of emergency in the prefecture because it is located next to Tokyo. Although the number of virus cases as a portion of the population is large in Ishikawa Prefecture, the declaration was lifted as the routes of infection can easily be identified. It is understandable that the central government made judgments based on actual circumstances.
In the 39 prefectures where the declaration was lifted, many restaurants and commercial facilities will resume their operations. A large number of people are expected to return to tourist spots there.
The central government asked people in the 39 prefectures to refrain from traveling to and from the eight prefectures that continue to be under a state of emergency. Just as in the eight prefectures, it urges people in the other 39 prefectures to refrain from going to live music clubs and other facilities where mass infections have occurred in the past.
Each industry group is mapping out guidelines for resuming operations. Sufficient measures should be taken to prevent infections, including thorough disinfection, ventilation and cleaning.
It is important for each individual to make efforts to create a “new way of life,” such as ensuring they maintain distance from other people and wear a mask when going outside.
There are cases overseas of infections expanding again after economic activities were allowed to resume. In South Korea, where restrictions on going out have been eased, a mass outbreak of the virus was found at a nightclub in Seoul.
Japan, too, could fall into the same situation if people let their guard down. It is necessary for the government to keep monitoring the 39 prefectures, and if signs of a spread of infections appear, it needs to once again designate the prefectures as being on special alert as soon as possible.
The number of patients being discharged from hospitals is increasing, but medical workers on the front line continue to be extremely busy. To prepare for a recurrence of the spread of the virus, the central government should bolster the medical system by working with local governments to secure hospital beds and equipment.
— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on May 15, 2020.