The economy minister of Japan Yasutoshi Nishimura stated on Saturday that the government is looking forward to lift the state of emergency in most of the 34 prefectures which are not among the hardest hit due to the coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic ahead of the nationwide deadline of May 31

"Lifting the state of emergency in many of 34 prefectures that exclude those under specific cautions will likely come in sight as many prefectures have been seeing no fresh infections lately," Nishimura mentioned in a debate on the public broadcaster NHK.

Japan extended its nationwide state of emergency last week

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Nishimura, who is in charge of the government's overall coronavirus response, said a declining trend in the weekly number of new infections and the number of new cases on a per capita basis will be among evaluation criteria for the lifting. Japan extended its nationwide state of emergency last week to the end of May but said it would reassess the situation at a coronavirus task force meeting on May 14 and possibly lift the measures earlier for some prefectures.

Out of Japan's 47 prefectures, the government has designated 13 prefectures including Tokyo and Osaka where the virus has spread rapidly as "the prefectures under specific cautions". Nishimura said some of the 13 prefectures could also be among the areas to be brought out of lockdown measures before the deadline.

About 15,777 coronavirus infections and 624 deaths have been confirmed in the country as of Sunday, excluding cases from a cruise ship previously quarantined in Yokohama, according to NHK.

(With agency inputs)