• KYODO, JIJI

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The government plans to relax COVID-19 curbs on travel, large-scale events and the serving of alcohol around November, provided that people are mostly vaccinated, sources with knowledge of the plan said Wednesday.

The easing of restrictions will even be implemented in areas under a COVID-19 state of emergency if certain conditions such as vaccination are met, the sources said.

The government is expected to test out the eased restrictions as early as next month with a plan that would allow restaurants and bars to gradually return to normal as it assesses the infection situation, the sources added.

It is set to formally adopt the policy after seeking expert opinions as early as Thursday at a meeting of the government’s panel on the COVID-19 response.

The government is also considering reviewing its request to limit the size of groups eating out to four participants.

The eased restrictions are expected to focus on people who have been vaccinated and have tested negative in polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.

The government plans to draw up a basic set of guidelines for relaxing the restrictions, the sources said.

A temporarily closed sign hangs on a shop door in Asahikawa, Hokkaido, on Aug. 27 as the prefecture came under a coronavirus state of emergency. | KYODO
A temporarily closed sign hangs on a shop door in Asahikawa, Hokkaido, on Aug. 27 as the prefecture came under a coronavirus state of emergency. | KYODO

Currently, establishments offering alcohol and karaoke services are requested to suspend operations in areas covered by the coronavirus state of emergency. Restaurants and bars that do not serve alcohol are asked to close by 8 p.m.

In terms of large-scale events, the government currently limits the number of spectators to 50% of a venue capacity of up to 5,000 people and asks for these events to finish by 9 p.m.

The government hopes to complete vaccinations of those wishing to be inoculated as soon as October or November. Taking into account the expected progress in vaccinations, it has been considering ways to resume social and economic activities.

But some experts remain cautious about relaxing the restrictions in areas under the emergency measure, sources said.

One senior government official said that rescinding the request to halt the serving of alcohol in the emergency areas would be difficult, a hint that certain restrictions may remain in place.

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