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The coronavirus state of emergency was lifted in six prefectures outside the Tokyo region on Monday after signs of an improvement in the infection situation … but also as concerns about a possible resurgence of COVID-19 cases lingered.

The state of emergency ended in Aichi, Gifu, Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo and Fukuoka prefectures after the six met conditions for an early exit, a week ahead ahead of the scheduled March 7 expiry date. The four remaining prefectures — Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa, and Saitama — will await further signs of improvement.

Ahead of the lifting, the sentiment among businesses, citizens and even governors was mixed. While some welcomed the move in the hopes it would help revive their economies, others expressed concerns that the lack of restrictions could lead to a resurgence of infections in those areas.

“We need to remain on guard. A (large) cluster infection can occur at any hospital,” Gifu Gov. Hajime Furuta said.

Pedestrians cross a street in Tokyo's Ginza shopping district over the weekend. | AFP-JIJI
Pedestrians cross a street in Tokyo’s Ginza shopping district over the weekend. | AFP-JIJI

A day ahead of the emergency’s lifting, Taro Kono, the minister in charge of vaccinations, offered another piece of good news, saying the likelihood was high that Japan will receive an increased supply of vaccines in April, when the government starts administering shots to older people. Kono said he expects the government to have enough COVID-19 vaccine doses so older people — a group of about 36 million people — can receive their second shots in May and June.

Kono also expressed his intention to produce guidelines for local governments and medical institutions to avoid on-site confusion. On Saturday, prefectural governors urged the government to present a comprehensive coronavirus vaccination rollout plan as soon as it can.

But Japan will face a challenge convincing older people to get their shots, according to a recent survey that showed over 40% older Japanese people are unsure if they will get the vaccine.

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