OSAKA (Kyodo) -- Three western Japan prefectures asked the central government on Tuesday to lift the state of emergency in their areas this weekend over the coronavirus pandemic ahead of its schedule end date on March 7, Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura said.
The governors of Kyoto, Osaka and Hyogo made a joint request to economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who is leading the country's response to the pandemic, citing improvements in the number of hospital beds available for COVID-19 patients and the slowing pace of infections.
The state of emergency, Japan's second over the pandemic, was initially declared on Jan. 7 for one month, covering Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures.
On Jan. 13, it was expanded to seven other prefectures including the three western areas and later extended through March 7 for 10 of the 11 prefectures.
Under the virus emergency, people are asked to refrain from unnecessary outings and restaurants and bars to close early.
Kyoto Gov. Takatoshi Nishiwaki has said that even if the state of emergency is lifted, the prefecture would continue to ask restaurants and bars to shorten business hours to prevent a resurgence of infections.