• Kyodo

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The Japanese government plans to extend the COVID-19 state of emergency set to expire at the end of May in Tokyo and eight prefectures to June 20, a senior official said Thursday, as the decline in infections has slowed and hospitals remain under strain.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told reporters the government will consult with an expert panel on Friday regarding the decision, which will also apply to Hokkaido, Aichi, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo, Okayama, Hiroshima and Fukuoka.

The extension comes with less than two months until the Tokyo Olympics kick off, casting further doubt over whether the games can be held safely during a global pandemic.

Infections are declining in some areas including Tokyo and Osaka but “on the whole the situation is highly unpredictable,” Suga said.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike and other prefectural leaders had called on the government to enable them to maintain tougher restrictions beyond the current deadline of May 31, including a ban on restaurants serving alcohol and telling them to close by 8 p.m. as well as a cap on attendance at sports games and concerts.

Okinawa, the 10th and most recent addition to areas under the state of emergency, is already set to exit the state of emergency on June 20.

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