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As Japan becomes further inundated by a COVID-19 wave of unprecedented scale and severity, the central government — long criticized for its haphazard response to the pandemic — is looking to revise the country's guidelines for lifting a state of emergency and devise an exit strategy for when the current one expires.

Previously, five criteria — hospital occupancy, the number of coronavirus patients, positive test rates, daily infections and the number of untraceable cases — had been flexibly taken into account when declaring, expanding, extending or lifting a state of emergency. Moving forward, however, two new factors — the vaccination rate and the number of severely ill patients — will be added to the list as the country shifts its primary focus away from daily cases and onto new data points, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said during a news conference Wednesday.

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