File photo: CGTN
TOKYO, May 4 (Xinhua) -- The Japanese government on Monday officially announced its decision to extend the nationwide state of emergency for COVID-19 by nearly a month until May 31. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made the announcement at a meeting of a government task force on the coronavirus response to extend the state of emergency beyond May 6, the last day of Japan's Golden Week holiday which was the initial expiration date.
"I will extend the state of emergency I declared on April 7 to May 31. All prefectures are subject to it and there is no change to the emergency framework," Abe said during the meeting.
"The one-month period is designed for us to prepare for the next step and put an end to the state of emergency," Abe said, adding that the fight against COVID-19 could be protracted.
He also reiterated his calls for people to refrain from traveling to other prefectures and reduce person-to-person contact by 80 percent in 13 prefectures such as Tokyo and Osaka that require "special caution."
The decision to extend the state of emergency was approved by an advisory panel of medical experts in the morning. The government then notified the parliament of the decision.
Economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told the parliament that the pace of the declining of newly confirmed cases is not fast enough, though the number of new cases has been on a downward trend.
"We need to see a further reduction in new cases," Nishimura said.
The extension comes as the medical system has come under mounting pressure with increasing cases and sluggish economic activities due to stay-at-home requests and business closure.
Abe declared a month-long state of emergency on April 7 for seven prefectures including Tokyo and Osaka, and then expanded it to the entire nation on April 16.