This week’s featured article


As the nation reels from a pandemic that has paralyzed everyday life for many, some prefectures that adopted blanket measures for the state of emergency are now accelerating efforts to wind them down.

But by easing emergency restrictions, those prefectures must face the risk of allowing a respiratory disease devoid of a cure to regain strength.

The public and the central government are pressuring prefectures and municipalities to strike a delicate balance between maintaining public safety and restoring economic activity. But the rush to return to normalcy is leaving critical questions unanswered, including whether governments can reimpose restrictions fast enough if the novel coronavirus regains momentum.

While the government is expected to publicize its guidelines soon, Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura last week announced the prefecture’s own threshold for retracting requests for restrictions on outings and commerce, setting an example for other prefectures. Osaka has roughly 1,720 COVID-19 patients but its daily case count fell to nine on Friday, May 8.

The Osaka Prefectural Government listed three criteria for easing shutdown requests and said that seven consecutive days of compliance would allow measures to be eased.

The criteria are: recording fewer than 10 untraceable infections per day; keeping the rate for positive polymerase chain reaction tests under 7 percent; and keeping the rate for hospital beds occupied by seriously ill COVID-19 patients under 60 percent.

The criteria were met on Saturday. So if all goes well, Osaka could make a decision on lifting its restriction requests on Friday.

Yoshimura said the prefecture would reinstate restrictions if the number of untraceable infections grows by one from the previous week, there are at least five patients with untraceable infections, and positive PCR tests hit 7 percent or higher.

Tokyo, which has the highest COVID-19 count in the country, is also considering releasing the outline of its exit strategy, but Gov. Yuriko Koike on Friday did not say when and warned that just even talking about it might encourage residents to relax before the national state of emergency ends on May 31.

Meanwhile, several prefectures with fewer infections have already given businesses permission to reopen by Thursday, including Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Tottori, Shimane, Kagawa and Kochi. Others, like Niigata and Wakayama, have partially lifted restrictions. Fukushima and a few other prefectures will keep restrictions in place through the end of the month.

The governors will face the difficult task of judging when to swiftly reactivate restrictions if COVID-19 infections swell again.

Article first published in the Japan Times on May 10.

Warm up

One minute chat about the governor of your prefecture.


Collect words related to the economy:

e.g., money, market, shopping, business, etc.

New words

1) blanket: all-encompassing, nondiscriminatory, e.g., “There should be a blanket approach to testing for COVID-19.”

2) devoid: entirely lacking in, e.g., “He was devoid of any emotion.”

3) normalcy: a state of being normal, e.g., “A return to normalcy seems a long way off.”

Guess the headline

Japan governors face balancing act in reopening b_ _ _ _ _ _ _es amid pa_ _ _ _ _ _


1) What are governors struggling to balance?

2) What is the criteria for lifting restrictions in Osaka?

3) What is happening in the prefectures with fewer infection cases?

Let’s discuss the article

1) Do you think your governor (and government) is doing a good job with combatting COVID-19?

2) What do you think about the criteria to lift restrictions in Osaka?

3) If you were governor of your prefecture, how would you handle the restrictions?




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