Japan decides to lift coronavirus state of emergency

Outgoing Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announces move, citing decline in case numbers.

Japan decides to lift coronavirus state of emergency

Japan on Tuesday decided to end the state of emergency in the country imposed to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, local media reported.

The decision will formally go into effect on Thursday, said a report by the Tokyo-based Kyodo News after a statement by outgoing Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

Suga told a parliament committee that the number of new coronavirus cases and patients with severe symptoms had "dramatically declined."

"We will enhance social response to the spread of infections through vaccinations and health care system enhancement among other steps and work on balancing antivirus measures and restoring normal lives,” he said, as the country has so far reported 1,696,061 COVID-189 cases, including 17,511 deaths, since the outbreak of the pandemic.

The state of emergency had empowered local governments to impose stricter measures to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

At least 18 provinces of Japan, including the capital Tokyo, are under extraordinary measures as the country has continued to grapple with the virus outbreak.

Japan first imposed the virus emergency last April under former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The Suga government extended and expanded the emergency several times since April 4 this year.

This move comes as the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is set to elect its new leader on Wednesday to succeed Suga as premier in the first week of next month.

However, the government is still expected to urge people against attending crowded places while restaurant working hours will be curtailed for about a month after the state of emergency is lifted.