Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks to the media personnel. File photo
Japan is expected to lift a state of emergency across a large part of the country on Thursday but the capital Tokyo will likely remain under restrictions until there is a convincing containment of the coronavirus.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is scheduled to hold a news conference at 6pm (0900 GMT) when he is expected to announce the lifting of the emergency in 39 of Japan's 47 prefectures, but not in Tokyo.
The world's third-largest economy declared a nationwide state of emergency a month ago, urging citizens to reduce person-to-person contact by 80% in an effort to slow the pace of new coronavirus infections and ease the strain on medical services.
The government had said it would reassess the situation in mid-May.
Abe, like leaders everywhere, is striving to strike a balance between damage to the economy from prolonged shutdowns and the need to contain the virus.
Economists said normalisation would be gradual as the government keeps a wary eye on the possibility of a second wave of infections as seen in countries such as South Korea and China.
"The focus is whether the government will lift the emergency in the big areas such as Tokyo and Osaka before the end of May, as was initially planned," said Atsushi Takeda, chief economist at Itochu Research Institute.
"If it does, economic recovery will likely be faster than previously estimated."
The emergency gives governors more authority to tell people to stay at home and to close schools and businesses, but there is no penalty for non-compliance.
Some non-essential businesses, even in areas hit hard by the coronavirus, have started to reopen ahead of the government's review, and the scope of restrictions has varied across the country.
The emergency is also expected to remain in force in Osaka, Japan's second-largest metropolis, but its governor has announced criteria for gradually lifting some restraints on businesses including eateries and bars.
The 39 prefectures in which the emergency is expected to be lifted account for 54% of Japan's population.Reuters
The state of emergency, giving authorities more power to press people to stay at home and businesses to close, will last through May 6 and be imposed in the capital, Tokyo, and six other prefectures - accounting for about 44% of Japan's population.
A survey published in the Nikkei daily on Monday showed 55% of respondents disapproved of Abe's handling of the crisis, up 11 points from a previous poll, although support for his cabinet was little changed at 49%, after a decline this year.
Abe has pledged to craft an "unprecedented" stimulus package to respond to the global downturn inflicted by the pandemic, which would exceed the size of one compiled in the wake of the 2009 financial crisis totalling 56 trillion yen ($514 billion) in size, with fiscal spending of 15 trillion yen.
Anyone wanting to support athletes has been told to clap rather than cheer or sing. Sponsors are cancelling or scaling back booths and events tied to the Games, frustrated by the "very last-minute" decisions by organisers, sources said.
They were followed up and monitored by the security men after the first stopped on the side of the road, then the other followed him.
The Ministry stressed in a statement on Tuesday that its aim to continue expanding the scope of testing nationwide to facilitate the early detection of coronavirus cases and carry out the necessary treatment.
According to the data updated by the health ministry at 8am, the active cases declined to 1,63,816. With the fresh cases, the total tally climbed to 3,42,02,202, while the death toll climbed to 4,55,068 with 356 fresh fatalities.