• Kyodo

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Japan is considering extending the COVID-19 state of emergency covering Tokyo and 20 of the nation’s 47 prefectures by another two weeks, as it looks increasingly unlikely that the current situation will warrant the lifting of the measure on its planned Sept. 12 expiration, government sources said Wednesday.

While new infections have been decreasing in some areas, the country is still struggling to contain surging coronavirus infections and the strain they impose on the medical system in many others. The government’s COVID-19 task force will meet next week to make an official decision, the sources said.

Due to the highly contagious delta variant, daily new infections nationwide have peaked at over 25,000. On Tuesday, the number of coronavirus patients with severe symptoms stood at 2,110, hitting a record high for the 19th consecutive day.

While the number fell by 18 to 2,092 on Wednesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato warned at a news conference that there remains “a need to look at the future trend.”

Health minister Norihisa Tamura said on an NHK program last week that “given the current situation, it is probably very difficult” to end the emergency declaration as scheduled, while a government source said it is unlikely the declaration would be lifted all at once on Sept. 12.

Even if the declaration is lifted, the government will consider shifting to quasi-emergency measures to prevent infections from surging again, according to the sources.

The government decided last month to extend the lifting of the emergency declaration from the end of August to Sept. 12, while expanding the areas for the measure to eight more prefectures to bring the total to 21 prefectures. It also expanded the quasi-emergency to another four prefectures, bringing the total to 12 prefectures.

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