Japan PM vows no virus rebound as emergency measures end

Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga pledged Sunday to do his utmost to prevent a resurgence of the coronavirus ahead of the Olympic torch relay and his upcoming visit to Washington.

Suga was addressing his ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s annual convention, just hours ahead of the planned lifting of a virus state of emergency in the the Tokyo region. Suga said after the state of emergency is lifted is “an extremely important time for virus prevention. We must not put our guards down … to prevent the infections from rebounding,” he said. Suga on Thursday announced that the monthslong emergency measures for Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama would end at midnight Sunday, a move underscoring his government’s eagerness to minimize burdens on businesses and keep the economy going, despite concerns raised by experts about the potential for an upsurge. The lifting of the measure comes just days before the Olympic torch relay starts from Fukushima, northeast of Tokyo and the site of the 2011 nuclear crisis, as a symbol of reconstruction. Suga also wants to keep the infections low ahead of his planned Washington visit in early April for his first in-person summit with US President Joe Biden.

Meanwhile, the governors from about 30 of 47 prefectures across Japan compiled proposals for the central government to prevent another surge in infections. They include financial support for conducting extensive PCR virus tests and tracking infection routes. The governors are also calling on the government to complete vaccinations for healthcare workers as soon as possible and start inoculations for elderly citizens.