TOKYO, May 25 (Xinhua) -- Japanese Health Minister Norihisa Tamura on Tuesday said they were considering extending the current COVID-19 state of emergency declared for Tokyo, Osaka and seven other prefectures in the country.
Tamura's remarks come as the emergency period is set to expire at the end of the month, yet the number of new daily infections including COVID-19 variants in the country have shown little signs of abating.
"Keeping an eye on extending the state of emergency, we will make a final decision by taking into account experts' evaluations," Tamura told a news conference on the matter.
Informed sources said the Japanese government is deciding whether to extend the emergency period for the nine prefectures including Kyoto, Hyogo, Aichi, Fukuoka, Hokkaido, Hiroshima and Okayama until June 20.
Another option being considered, they said, is an earlier exit from the state of emergency on June 13, in line with Japan's southernmost prefecture of Okinawa, which was put under a state of emergency on Sunday.
Tamura said before the government makes a decision on extending the emergency period, an assessment will be made as to whether the severity of the COVID-19 situation has improved from the highest on its four-tier alert scale.
He implied that if the situation was within Stage 3 parameters and closer to Stage 2, then this could affect the government's judgment on the extension.
In the western prefecture of Osaka, the new epicenter of the virus, the local government on Tuesday will decide whether to formally request for the extension of emergency state.
Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura said on Monday that over 300 patients are currently designated as being in a serious condition, and 90 percent of beds for critically-ill patients are occupied, local media reported.
Yoshimura said the prefectural government's decision will take into account the strain on the medical system and not just the number of new COVID-19 infections.
Japan, in the grip of a fourth wave of infections and third virus state of emergency, has the lowest rate among advanced countries of administering COVID-19 vaccinations. According to recent government data, Japan had administered at least one shot to just over 4 percent of its population.
On Monday, mass vaccination centers were opened in Tokyo and Osaka Prefecture with the state-backed facilities aimed at helping to complete administering vaccinations of 36 million seniors aged 65 or older from a total population of 126 million by the end of July.
Japan began inoculating its elderly population of about 36 million in mid-April, after its vaccination campaign for health care workers started in February. Enditem