Japan is again considering the early lifting of the coronavirus state of emergency, this time for six prefectures — Aichi, Gifu, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo and Fukuoka — due to sufficient improvement in their situations, government sources have said.

While the declaration is likely to end for the six this weekend, Tokyo and its three nearby prefectures are set to remain under the emergency.

When it comes to COVID-19 vaccine distribution, Japan is all about proportional representation. The official in charge of the rollout said the vaccines will be in proportion to the population in each prefecture rather than the number of infections, Kyodo reports.

Unfortunately, though, that rollout will be getting a later start than anticipated. The government now expects to vaccinate those 65 and over on a trial basis in April and reaching full swing in May, when many vaccine shipments are set to arrive in Japan, according to Kyodo.

The government plans to release a new schedule for the delivery of vaccines to local governments this week.

A doctor at a hospital in the city of Saga is vaccinated against COVID-19 on Monday. | POOL / VIA KYODO
A doctor at a hospital in the city of Saga is vaccinated against COVID-19. | POOL / VIA KYODO

As Japan continues to battle the deadly pandemic, with some laudable successes (including Tokyo’s lowest daily COVID-19 tally since early November), it’s fair to say the country deserves some praise.

And who do the plaudits come from? Why no less than the Emperor himself, who used the occasion of his 61st birthday Tuesday to offer his thanks for the “perseverance and strength of the people” in Japan amid the pandemic.

But Emperor Naruhito wasn’t the only one putting the sacrifices others have made in the spotlight on what was supposed to be his day of celebration. Coming fresh off her victory in the Australian Open, tennis star Naomi Osaka dedicated her latest win to those affected by the pandemic and March 2011 disasters.