All national dailies reported extensively on the GOJ’s formal decision on Thursday to end the COVID-19 state of emergency in Tokyo and its three neighboring prefectures of Saitama, Chiba, and Kanagawa on Sunday as scheduled based on the judgment that another extension is unnecessary given that the number of new cases per day has declined from its peak and the strain on hospitals has eased. Prime Minister Suga formally announced the lifting of the state of emergency at a GOJ coronavirus task force meeting after an expert panel approved the decision.
Suga told reporters: “We’ve carefully examined the situation, including the degree of strain on the healthcare system, and concluded that it meets the criteria for ending the state of emergency.” The premier said the government will continue to reinforce the medical system while administering vaccines. Following the decision to lift the emergency, the government will take such measures as asking restaurants to close by 9:00 p.m., expanding sample screening for mutations from the current 5 – 10% of new cases to around 40%, stepping up testing at elderly care facilities, and monitoring for coronavirus variants in entertainment districts.
Some experts expressed concern that easing restrictions could trigger a resurgence of infection as the decline in the number of new cases per day appears to have bottomed out and is increasing slowly in Tokyo and some other areas. A resurgence is of particular concern at a time when the season for cherry blossom-viewing parties as well as graduation and school entrance celebrations is about to begin. The papers expressed the pessimistic view that the new measures will not be effective or stringent enough to curb infection.