• Kyodo, JIJI


Governors from across Japan on Tuesday requested that people help contain the coronavirus by refraining from travel even if the government lifts the state of emergency for many prefectures as expected later in the week.

The governors of Japan’s 47 prefectures used their emergency proposals to the central government to ask that people do not travel across prefectural borders.

They also sought additional financial support for industries like the tourism sector that have been seriously affected by the pandemic, asking that help be extended until the crisis passes.

The central government is set to decide Thursday on whether to lift the state of emergency for 34 prefectures which have seen fewer infections than the other 13 after hearing opinions of experts.

“It is very important not to draw in people (from outside) in preventing the spread of the virus,” said Tokushima Gov. Kamon Iizumi at the outset of the teleconference of the National Governors’ Association he heads.

“We must strongly request people refrain from traveling from areas where the state of emergency is still declared to the other regions,” he said at the online meeting attended by some 40 governors.

The association urged the central government to disclose the criteria it uses to determine which areas remain under the state of emergency and which do not.

It also called on the country to take specific measures to prevent cross-prefectural infection, such as not allowing people to board aircraft when they have a fever and cooperating with railway and other transport operators.

The proposals also included a request for the central government to continue providing aid to hard-hit industries in the post-state-of-emergency period and to swiftly compile a second extra budget for fiscal 2020 to finance the stimulus.

The governors called for increased subsidies for firms that were forced to ask employees to take leave due to the negative impacts of the pandemic on their businesses.

A request was also made that subsidies for local governments be boosted.

Iizumi is scheduled to deliver the proposals to economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura and health and labor minister Katsunobu Kato on Wednesday.

On Monday, Nishimura told the Diet that lifting the state of emergency is in sight for most of the 34 prefectures where infections are not spreading.

The government and the experts are trying to draw up a numerical standard for determining whether to lift the emergency declaration. One proposal includes criteria such as the number of daily infections logged in the past one to two weeks, the number of beds available at intensive care units and the rate of infections detected by polymerase chain reaction tests.

While it is feared the epidemic is still raging in the 13 prefectures designated as “requiring special vigilance,” the other 34 have seen either single-digit or zero daily infections.

Ibaraki and Gifu prefectures, which are among the group of 13, have seen dramatic declines in infections, so the government is also considering placing them in the regions where the emergency declaration might be lifted.

While Tokyo, Osaka and Hokkaido will remain areas requiring special vigilance, efforts will also be made to prevent spikes in infections from recurring in those prefectures freed from the declaration.

Some governors have already set out their own criteria for relaxing curbs on business activity. After Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura took the initiative, the governor of Aichi, home to Toyota Motor Corp., followed suit on Monday.

Aichi Gov. Hideaki Omura set three criteria — the numbers of new cases, the number of hospitalized patients and the percentage of those testing positive for COVID-19.

Omura said he will ease calls for self-restraint if the three criteria are met, regardless of whether his prefecture is still designated by the central government as an area needing “special caution.”

“The number of infected people has been falling since April 25. We’ve entered a stage in which we need to prepare for economic activity to resume and schools to reopen,” the governor said at a news conference.

If the number of new cases stays below 10 a day, the percentage of those testing positive below 5 percent, and the number of hospitalized patients below 150 for seven straight days, the governor will consider relaxing the curbs.

As for Osaka, its criteria include the number of cases with untraceable routes, the percentage of those testing positive and the bed occupancy rate for patients with severe symptoms.

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