JAPAN’S COVID-19 case situation is improving so that the state of emergency can be lifted soon in most areas of the country, Japan’s Health Minister Norihisa Tamura said on Friday (9/24).

Hospitalization rates and the availability of hospital beds will be the determining factors whether the state of emergency in effect in Tokyo and much of Japan can be lifted by the end of September, Health Minister Tamura told reporters.

“After hearing the opinion of experts, the (Japan) cabinet will make the final decision. The Delta variant triggered the fifth wave of COVID-19 in Japan which pushed infection cases to record levels in August,” he said.

To prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed, the Japanese government extended a period of emergency restrictions covering about 80 percent of the population until the end of September.

With the restrictions, restaurants were asked to close early and not serve alcohol. Residents are also advised to work from home as much as possible and not travel.

The Japanese government is considering using vaccination status checks or negative COVID-19 results as a way to ease restrictions on business opening and citizens’ mobility.

A demonstration project for the vaccine confirmation system will be carried out in 13 prefectures, Japan’s Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said Friday, as quoted by Jiji news media.

Tokyo’s daily new COVID-19 cases have declined to around 550 in recent days, which is a tenth of the number of cases at the peak of the outbreak in August.

At a meeting of health experts on Friday, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike stressed the importance of raising vaccination rates.

He mentioned that about 80% of deaths from COVID-19 in Tokyo since August have occurred among people who were not vaccinated. If the number of new cases of COVID-19 starts to increase, it is feared that the health system will be in a crisis situation again. [antaranews/photo special]