Health minister Norihisa Tamura has expressed confidence that the nationwide COVID-19 situation will improve enough for the government to lift its state of emergency at the end of this month.

“We’re starting to expect that the situation will improve enough for the lifting in many regions around the end of September” if new infections continue to fall, Tamura said at a news conference Friday.

On Thursday, the government extended the state of emergency in Tokyo and 18 other prefectures until Sept. 30, citing strains on the medical system.

Tamura said severe cases and deaths remain elevated and that the medical system remains under strain.

“We need to do more” to improve access to medical care, he said, citing the need to build temporary medical facilities and ensure that patients at home receive oxygen.

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