A set of guidelines on how to restart economic activities amid the coronavirus epidemic for certain areas of the country will be made public next week around the time an extension of the current nationwide state of emergency will be decided, a Japanese minister said Saturday.
The guidelines will cover areas other than the 13 prefectures that have already been singled out by the government for stepped-up measures against the virus. The 13 are Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba, Osaka, Hyogo, Fukuoka, Hokkaido, Ibaraki, Ishikawa, Gifu, Aichi and Kyoto.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday he will make a final decision Monday on extension of the state of emergency by about a month, following recommendations by a government panel to keep the restrictions in place for a while.
The initial state of emergency was declared on Tokyo, Osaka and five other prefectures on April 7, after which it was expanded on April 16 to cover the rest of the country. The declaration has resulted in business suspensions, and the government has been pushing for a reduction in person-to-person contact and more teleworking.
Economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who is in charge of issues related to the state of emergency, spoke about the guidelines during a Saturday teleconference with Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike and Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura.
In a press conference afterward, Nishimura said, "We have to do it for the long stretch," referring to efforts to curb the spread of the pneumonia-causing virus.
At the same time, he said reopening economic activities in stages is possible, if the new cases of coronavirus infections are few and there are no problems in the regional health care systems.
According to a draft obtained by Kyodo News on the government's basic policy on the virus, while the use of facilities in the 13 prefectures will remain in place, restrictions for the other areas with few infection cases will be eased based on the situation on the ground. It will likely lead some shops to resume operations.
The draft on the policy, which will be revised Monday, also says classes will resume in phases, taking into account the situation of infections in the regions.
Meanwhile, the government will continue asking the public to avoid closed spaces, crowded places and close contact with others, and ask people not to go out of their prefectures, according to the draft.
Nishimura also urged the various sectors to take the initiative to create their own guidelines based on the government's basic ones.
Also on Saturday, the Osaka prefectural government decided at a coronavirus countermeasures task force meeting that it will decide on whether requests for business suspensions and calls to refrain from going out could be eased, based on the number of virus infections in the prefecture as of May 15.
On Friday, Yoshimura said he intends to create his prefecture's own guidelines that could help businesses to restart.