Govt to decide as early as Thurs. whether on ending emergency

This undated transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, also known as novel coronavirus, the virus that causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S. Virus particles are shown emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. The spikes on the outer edge of the virus particles give coronaviruses their name, crown-like.

The government will decide as early as Thursday on when to end a state of emergency in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama prefectures.

It will also launch a four-pillar plan to prevent a resurgence of the novel coronavirus once the state of emergency is over.

The four-pillar plan includes promotion of vaccination, reinforcement of variant control, expansion of testing for monitoring purposes, and enhancement of medical capacity. Regarding medical capacity, the government will review its plan to secure hospital beds and facilities for recovering patients as early as May to prepare for a resurgence in infections.

Hospital bed occupancy rates in the four prefectures have become low enough to meet the criteria for ending the emergency.

The majority view in the government is that the number of people infected with the novel coronavirus will not decrease any further even if the state of emergency is extended.

Then again, the government once considered ending the emergency in the four prefectures on March 7 but then decided at the last minute to extend it another two weeks, to March 21. Similarly, in mid-February, it considered lifting the emergency in Aichi and Gifu prefectures but ended up not doing so. Again this time, it seems likely that the government will continue careful discussions until the last minute.

At the House of Councillors’s Budget Committee meeting Monday, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga was asked whether the state of emergency could end on Sunday as scheduled, and replied: “It [the infection situation] has leveled off. We’re not in the situation to say whether to extend the emergency now.”

The government task force will make a decision on Thursday to end the state of emergency as planned, if the government advisory panel makes such a recommendation in a meeting earlier on the same day.