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Japan gov't to decide on end of COVID-19 state of emergency

A woman wearing a face mask crosses an intersection in the Ginza shopping district of Tokyo, on Sept. 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Hiro Komae)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The Japanese government will formally decide Tuesday to end this week the COVID-19 state of emergency in Tokyo and 18 prefectures, as well as the quasi-state of emergency in other areas, as infections have declined from their peak.

    It will be the first time since April 4 that no part of Japan is under either a COVID-19 state of emergency or quasi-state of emergency.

    The government plans on easing restrictions in stages with respective governors deciding on which antivirus measures should remain and what should be lifted in their prefectures.

    The decision to let the emergency and quasi-state of emergency, with the latter covering eight prefectures, expire as scheduled Thursday will be taken by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga at a coronavirus task force meeting in the afternoon.

    The task force meeting comes a day before the ruling Liberal Democratic Party selects a new leader to succeed Suga.

    Under the state of emergency, people are urged to refrain from nonessential outings and avoid going to crowded places, while restaurants are asked to close by 8 p.m. and not to serve alcohol.

    For about a month after the state of emergency is lifted, the central government will continue to ask restaurants and drinking establishments to close by 8 p.m. and those taking sufficient antivirus measures by 9 p.m. They will no longer be asked to refrain from serving alcohol.

    "Serving alcohol will be made possible, but governors will decide on that appropriately," said Yasutoshi Nishimura, minister in charge of Japan's coronavirus response.

    Nishimura said such shortening of opening hours will be eased gradually and that businesses that continue to comply with such requests will receive financial support from the government.

    He also said the maximum number of spectators allowed for major sporting events will be raised to 10,000 or 50 percent of the venue's capacity from the current 5,000 once the emergency statuses are lifted.

    Infections across Japan have been falling since hitting a nationwide record of 25,876 cases on Aug. 20. A total of 1,147 cases were confirmed on Monday, with infections in Tokyo falling below 200 for the first time since March.

    Tokyo was placed under its latest state of emergency on July 12, about a week before the opening of the Olympics, joining Okinawa, the only other area then subject to the measure. Other prefectures, including Osaka and Fukuoka, were placed under it in August.

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