Tokyo, May 24 (efe-epa).- Japanese authorities said Sunday that conditions in hospitals have eased, fueling the possibility that the state of emergency that has been in force since Apr. 7 due to the coronavirus outbreak may be lifted soon.
The government has in recent days been gradually lifting the health alert, initially declared in a number of regions and subsequently extended across the country, and it now remains in force only in Tokyo, the prefectures surrounding the metropolitan area and the northern Hokkaido region.
“The tight medical situation has become rather relaxed,” said Health Minister Katsunobu Kato, public broadcaster NHK reported.
“The number of new infections has been falling each day and that is also the case in areas under the state of emergency,” he added.
Japan has reported 16,550 confirmed COVID-19 cases to date, with 820 deaths. The novel coronavirus arrived in the country in mid-January but daily rates of infection have been falling dramatically since the beginning of the month.
The health alert is in principle in effect until May 31, but on Monday a meeting with experts will be held, where it may be recommended that the alert be lifted before that date.
Kato said that if the situation continued to improve, a decision to lift the state of emergency health) could be taken as early as tomorrow after hearing the experts’ opinion.
Tokyo, a city of 14 million inhabitants, recorded only two infections on Saturday but the number rose to 14 on Sunday. However, in the last seven days, a total of 50 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed, taking the total to 5,152.
Experts had said that the decision to lift the state of emergency in Tokyo would depend on whether the number of infections in the metropolitan area in a week would be below 70 as well as the availability of hospitals.
According to Kato, there are currently about 2,000 people being treated in hospitals for COVID-19. Only 15 percent of the beds reserved by the government are occupied throughout the country, and in Tokyo only 20 percent.
The state of health emergency allows local authorities to ban large-scale public events and close bars and restaurants at night, among other measures, while the government has launched a campaign to encourage people to telework and stay at home. EFE-EPA