• Kyodo

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The government plans to lift the COVID-19 quasi-state of emergency in three prefectures after the coming weekend as scheduled as infection rates there are declining, officials said Wednesday.

“We will consult with experts and make a decision regarding Gunma, Ishikawa and Kumamoto as early as tomorrow as we continue to watch the situation with a strong sense of caution,” Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Manabu Sakai told reporters.

Restrictions including banning restaurants from serving alcohol and telling them to close by 8 p.m. as well as a 5,000-person attendance cap at events are expected to end on Sunday.

Five other prefectures — Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa, Gifu and Mie — will remain under the quasi-state of emergency with no change to their June 20 end date, the officials said.

Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister in charge of Japan’s coronavirus response, is slated to ask for approval from a panel of experts in infectious disease and other fields before Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is departing for the United Kingdom on Thursday evening, finalizes the decision.

Gunma, Ishikawa and Kumamoto prefectures have been under the restrictions, which are similar to those under a full-fledged state of emergency but with smaller fines for noncompliance, since May 16.

Nine prefectures including Tokyo and Osaka remain under the tougher measures, though the fourth wave of infections is gradually starting to subside with a little over a month until the capital hosts the Summer Olympics.

Tokyo reported 440 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, down from around 1,000 per day in early May.

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