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.