Japan will completely lift COVID-19 restrictions as infections go slower
Japan will completely lift COVID-19 restrictions as infections go slower

Japan will completely lift COVID-19 restrictions as infections go slower

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has announced plans to completely lift coronavirus restrictions on March 21, as new infections driven by the highly contagious omicron variant slowly

The COVID-19 restrictions currently in place in 18 prefectures, including the Tokyo area, end on Monday as planned, Kishida said at a news conference on Wednesday as his government cautiously seeks to expand consumer activity to help the hard-hit economy with getting back on track.

“This will be a transition period so that we can return to our normal daily lives as much as possible by taking maximum precautions,” Kishida said.

The daily number of cases has fallen steadily in Japan in recent weeks after rising to new heights of over 100,000 in early February. New cases have dropped by about half.

The lifting of restrictions will allow more domestic travel, as well as parties and larger gatherings for people with vaccination records and negative virus tests, Kishida said.

But Japan is not opening its border to foreign tourists yet.

Kishida on Wednesday did not mention further easing of Japan’s border controls. His government has eased border restrictions by raising the limit for daily new arrivals to 7,000 to allow foreign researchers, students, business people and trainees after criticism from inside and outside Japan that it is exclusive and unscientific to lock them out.

While omicron causes mild symptoms in most people and mortality remains low, the latest wave is the deadliest so far in Japan because the total number of patients was many times higher than in previous waves. Yet deaths in Japan total about 26,000 since the pandemic began two years ago are significantly lower than in many other countries.

Most victims were elderly patients whose underlying diseases quickly worsened after contracting the virus, experts said.

Kishida has been criticized for delaying booster shots until all municipalities were ready, allowing the virus to spread rapidly in the country.

Experts call for caution after lifting restrictions due to the possibility of a resurgence of infections. A subvariant of omicron is gradually replacing the primary strain around the country.

In some areas, hospital beds still exceed 50%, and oral antiviral pills do not reach as many people as expected. Although the Kishida government has promised to secure millions of doses of the two imported oral pills, they are not widespread. One is quite large and difficult to swallow, and another can not be combined with many other substances.

The ongoing COVID-19 restrictions are largely limited to eateries where shorter operating times are desired. The public is also asked to work from home and avoid parties and large events, as well as to wear masks while in public places and follow other basic antivirus measures.

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