TOKYO, Feb. 8 (Nikkei Asia) — Japan will consider lifting its coronavirus state of emergency in some prefectures ahead of the new deadline, based on the law that takes effect Saturday allowing for fines against social distancing violators.
Japan extended its state of emergency by a month to March 7 in 10 prefectures, including Tokyo and Osaka. Tochigi was the only prefecture in which the emergency was lifted as planned on Sunday.
But the new law lets governors of designated prefectures enforce fines and other virus-related measures outside of a state of emergency, and some say this could curb the pandemic without the need for prefecture-wide restrictions.
Expanded gubernatorial authority “will allow for a responsive approach that is limited to a certain length of time, geographic area or business,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said. Local governments could lift restrictions in specific cities and towns where cases decrease.
The central government will host an advisory panel before Saturday to discuss which municipalities would fall under this new framework.
Under the new law, restaurants and other businesses that do not heed government requests for shorter hours face a fine of up to 300,000 yen ($2,850) during a state of emergency, or up to 200,000 yen where the expanded gubernatorial powers apply.
Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura on Saturday urged the central government to designate his prefecture as part of the new framework.
“It’s important to ease restrictions in appropriate stages,” he said.
Japan is experiencing a third wave of infections, and big cities like Tokyo continue to log many new cases. The Tokyo metropolitan government now aims to keep the seven-day average of new cases at 70% or less of the week prior. If successful, new infections could sink to around 140 cases per day by early March.
To meet this goal, the government will urge companies to cut the number of workers in their offices by 70%. For those who cannot go remote full time, it will encourage teleworking for a half-day or for a few hours.