The Osaka Prefectural Government has decided to ask the central government to lift the coronavirus state of emergency it declared in the prefecture at the end of this month.

Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura said Friday that he plans to finalize the decision after talking next week with his counterparts in neighboring Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures, hoping to request the lifting together.

The Osaka government has already decided to make the state of emergency cancellation request when the seven-day average of new cases stays at 300 or below for seven days in a row, or when the hospital bed occupancy rate for severely ill COVID-19 patients stood below 60 % for seven consecutive days.

The daily count target has been met, while the bed occupancy had dropped to 48% as of Friday and is expected fall further.

Meanwhile, Yoshimura also said at a coronavirus task force meeting Friday that even if the state of emergency is lifted in his prefecture, he will not completely end his request for local eateries to shorten opening hours to prevent a resurgence of the virus.

The prefectural government, therefore, plans to call on restaurants and bars in the downtown area of the city of Osaka to close at 9 p.m., an hour later than it is currently asking them to halt operations.

In Tokyo on Friday, economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who is leading the government's virus response, told a news conference that the central government will carefully consider whether to lift the state of emergency in the three prefectures after he holds talks with the governors there and experts next week, or later.

Declared in January, the state of emergency now covers 10 prefectures, including Tokyo and nearby Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama.

It was originally set to end on Feb. 7 but extended by one month. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has expressed willingness to lift it earlier on a region-by-region basis if possible.

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