The first phase of Japan’s battle against the novel coronavirus ended Monday as the government rescinded the state of emergency in Hokkaido and the Tokyo metropolitan area, tiptoeing its way into a new reality still riddled with uncertainty.
After consulting with an advisory panel composed of infectious disease experts, the government lifted the declaration in Hokkaido, Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures, removing the last of the restrictions. It had already cleared the declaration in 39 prefectures on May 14 and three prefectures in the Kansai region — Osaka, Hyogo and Kyoto — last Thursday, earlier than their scheduled conclusion on May 31.
The government’s decision to lift the declaration early highlights its strong desire to revive the nation’s faltering economy as soon as possible. Overall, the country has managed to keep the death toll relatively low compared to other countries and bring down the number of new coronavirus patients to government-set thresholds for reopening.