Tokyo, May 4 (efe-epa).- The state of health emergency that has been in effect in Japan since Apr. 7 and was due to end on Wednesday has been extended until May 31, the country’s prime minister announced Monday.
Shinzo Abe announced the extension at a meeting of a government task force that oversees actions to prevent the spread of coronavirus, which has already caused over 500 deaths in the country.
In his address at the meeting, which was broadcast on public television, Abe said that a meeting of experts would be held on May 14 to review the situation.
Abe added that the health emergency could even be lifted before May 31 at that meeting, depending on the number of infections.
Abe has convened a press conference at 6 pm to provide further explanations of the government’s decision to extend the state of emergency.
The state of emergency initially affected the Tokyo metropolitan area and six other prefectures although it was subsequently extended throughout the country, when the number of coronavirus cases surpassed 9,000.
The alert was initially scheduled to end on Wednesday but various local media reports in recent hours had pointed to the possibility of it being extended until May 31, citing unidentified official sources.
According to the latest official statistics, 15,057 people have been infected with COVID-19 in Japan since the first case, which emerged in mid-January, and 510 people have died from the disease.
The implementation of the alert in Japan is left to local and regional authorities, who have taken a number of concrete measures according to the level of infection.
In Tokyo, a city of some 14 million people, 4,568 cases have been recorded with 145 deaths, according to the latest official figures. On Sunday alone, 91 infections were registered although the daily record of 201 was recorded on Apr. 17.
When Abe announced the state of emergency, he said the goal was to reduce interpersonal contact by 70 to 80 percent.
The measures implemented in Tokyo involve the closure of restaurants and bars by 8 pm, the cancellation of large cultural and sporting events, the closure of places with large crowds as well as theaters, museums and gyms.
But Tokyo residents can still step out of their homes freely with the recommendation that they avoid it as much as possible and are allowed to exercise outside while maintaining the appropriate distance from other people.
As part of these measures, the Japanese government maintains the entry ban which prohibits the arrival of citizens and foreigners from dozens of countries and is asking Japanese citizens to travel to those places only if absolutely necessary. EFE-EPA