Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Thursday that he had decided to lift the state of emergency in 39 of the country’s 47 prefectures.
The decree remains in place for urban regions, including the capital, Tokyo, and the large port city of Osaka. Abe said his government will consider lifting the state of emergency for the remaining prefectures next week.
The prime minister declared a monthlong state of emergency for Tokyo and six other prefectures on April 7 as Japan reported a surge in COVID-19 cases. Abe later expanded the declaration to cover the entire country and last until May 31. Under the order, prefectural governors asked residents to stay home and for some businesses to temporarily close, but public cooperation was voluntary. There were no penalties for failure to comply.
Abe credited the recent decline in the rate of new infections to the efforts of residents staying at home and practicing social distancing. However, he warned that the state of emergency may have to be reimposed if infections increase.
More than 16,000 people in Japan have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and at least 678 have died, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.