Of Japan's 47 prefectures, 27 have decided to relax stay-at-home requests issued in response to the spread of the novel coronavirus, a senior government official said Friday.
As of Thursday, 24 prefectures, including Shizuoka, Nara and Nagasaki, have already eased some constraints on social and economic activities, while Tochigi, Nagano and Shiga have said they will do so over the coming days, economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said at a press conference.
Their decisions came after the government revised its basic policy on COVID-19 measures on Monday, at the same time that it extended a nationwide state of emergency until the end of this month.
Nonetheless, the 27 do not include 13 prefectures with a relatively high number of new cases, including Tokyo, Osaka and Hokkaido, which have been designated by the central government as requiring "special caution."
Also, seven prefectures that are not among the 13, including Hiroshima, Ehime and Okinawa, said they will continue to keep stay-at-home requests in place for the time being.
In any case, those that have already eased or plan to reduce the constraints are still calling on residents to refrain from making nonessential travel, crossing prefectural borders, and visiting nightclubs or similar to lower the risk of group transmissions.
When the state of emergency was extended, the government -- acknowledging public fatigue and the leveling-off of the epidemic -- decided to allow certain public facilities, including parks, libraries and museums, to reopen even in the 13 prefectures on condition that sufficient preventive steps against the virus are taken.
Like many other countries, however, Japan still faces a tough challenge to resume economic activities and stem the spread of the disease at the same time.
"We don't know when and where infections will increase," Nishimura said. "We will make sure measures against the virus are thoroughly in place as we pick up the pace of economic activities."