The Tokyo metropolitan area and Hokkaido are set to remain under a state of emergency over the novel coronavirus even after the government decides Thursday to remove three western prefectures from the list, government officials said Wednesday.
The government plans to reassess the situations in Hokkaido, Tokyo and its three surrounding areas -- Chiba, Saitama and Kanagawa -- next week, but the emergency declaration will be lifted in Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will make a formal decision on Thursday after hearing opinions from health experts.
The expected removal will bring the total number of prefectures outside the emergency zone to 42. Despite a recent downtrend in newly reported cases, Tokyo, Kanagawa and Hokkaido are still above the government threshold of 0.5 new cases per 100,000.
For that to happen, the government will also look into whether residents in those prefectures would have proper access to medical services and virus tests.
Abe ended the state of emergency last week in 39 prefectures and local governors have eased business suspension requests.
Tokyo reported five new cases Wednesday, taking the total to 5,075, the highest among the country's 47 prefectures.
Japan has reported over 17,000 cases, including 700 from the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined near Tokyo in February.
"Tokyo is densely populated so we need to carefully consider (whether to lift the emergency) because infections could rapidly spread," an official with the prime minister's office said.
Economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura has said the remaining eight prefectures should be divided into groups depending on their proximity and close economic ties.
The lifting of the emergency for the Tokyo area will likely come later even as two of the group -- Chiba and Saitama -- have already satisfied the below 0.5 criterion, according to the officials.