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Japan minister warns against complacency over coronavirus in areas still under emergency

Economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura is seen during a press conference about the government's response to the novel coronavirus, in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on May 16, 2020. (Mainichi/Masahiro Ogawa)

TOKYO -- Economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura called for people to remain vigilant and continue to refrain from nonessential outings in eight prefectures still under the state of emergency over the novel coronavirus, pointing out that the turnout of people is rising in some cities in those prefectures.

"People are seen becoming off guard here and there, and I'm very much worried," Nishimura said at a press conference on May 16. "If people let their guard down now, the number of new infections would increase, making it impossible to lift the state of emergency," he said.

After the national government's state of emergency declaration was lifted for 39 of the country's 47 prefectures on May 14, an increasing number of people in not only those prefectures but also in the remaining eight prefectures including Tokyo are seen going outdoors. Nishimura also urged people in those 39 prefectures to keep taking thorough measures to prevent infections with the virus.

During the news conference, Nishimura cited data showing that the turnout of people as of 7 p.m. on May 14 had increased by 13.1% in Tokyo's Shibuya district and 19.7% in the Susukino district of Sapporo in the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido compared to the previous day. Nishimura then stated, "If people let their guard down now, the number of new infections would rise at the end of May, which is two weeks from now."

While the minister showed some understanding toward the upward turnout trend, saying, "I assume people are tired of refraining from outings," he nevertheless asked people to remain vigilant. "We'd like to see this major outbreak come to an end somehow by the end of this month," he said.

In lifting the state of emergency, the government has set rough guidelines, including that "the reported number of cumulative new infections per 100,000 people in the most recent week stands at about less than 0.5." The government plans to lift the state of emergency for the remaining eight prefectures before its expiration at the end of the month if it can be deemed possible after looking into the issue on May 21 and 28.

(Japanese original by Shuhei Endo, Political News Department)

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