The government in Japan said on Thursday that it would relax emergency measures in Tokyo and other areas as the country’s latest coronavirus outbreak recedes, and with the Olympic Games scheduled to begin in just over five weeks.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga made the announcement at a meeting of the government’s coronavirus task force, saying that new infections had declined over the past month and that the strain on the nation’s hospitals had eased.
On Sunday, the state of emergency will be lifted in nine prefectures, but some restrictions will remain in place in Tokyo and in six other areas until at least July 11, the government said. Emergency measures in Okinawa will remain in effect for three more weeks, officials said.
The announcement comes as new daily cases reported in Japan have fallen by 48 percent over the past two weeks, to an average of 1,625 a day, according to a New York Times database. More than 684,000 vaccine doses were administered on Wednesday, twice as many as a month ago, based on government data.
Still, Japan’s vaccination drive remains one of the slowest among richer nations: About 26 million vaccine doses have been administered, with 15 percent of the population having received at least one shot, Times data shows.
Tokyo has been under a state of emergency since late April, the third since the start of the pandemic. Under the rules that go into effect on Monday, alcohol sales will be allowed to resume, but only until 7 p.m., while dining establishments will still be asked to close by 8 p.m.
The chief medical adviser to Japan’s government, Shigeru Omi, said that officials must remain vigilant and “take strong measures without hesitation” if cases begin to rise again.
With the Games set to begin in Tokyo on July 23 — and officials reportedly considering allowing up to 10,000 domestic spectators at some events — experts warn that infections could resurge. But John Coates, a vice president of the International Olympic Committee who is currently visiting Japan and under quarantine, said at a news conference last month that the Games could go on even if another state of emergency were declared.