The Latest: Japan OKs end to some state of emergency rules
The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.
TOP OF THE HOUR:
—Japanese task force OKs end to state of emergency in 47 prefectures.
—Typhoon Vongfong bears down on Philippines during lockdown for coronavirus.
—United Nations chief calls for mental health needs to be addressed amid pandemic.
—Australia to continue to push for origin of coronavirus.
TOKYO — Experts on the Japanese coronavirus task force approved a government plan Thursday lifting an ongoing state of emergency ahead of schedule in most areas, except for Tokyo and several other high-risk areas.
Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, after attending the task force meeting, said the experts approved a plan to lift the state of emergency in 39 of the country’s 47 prefectures, while keeping the measure in place for eight others, including Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hokkaido, where risks still remain high.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a month-long state of emergency on April 7 in Tokyo and six other urban prefectures and later expanded it to the whole country through May 31. With signs of the infections slowing, Abe is seeking to relax the measure while balancing disease prevention and the economy. Japan now has more than 16,000 confirmed cases, with about 680 deaths. The number of new cases has significantly decreased nationwide.
Abe is expected to explain details later Thursday. Experts are also expected to provide basis for easing the measure, as well as its possible tightening in case of a resurgence of the outbreak.
The Ehime prefecture in western Japan, which was hit by an in-hospital outbreak of about 20 nurses, patients and their families a day earlier, will have the state of emergency lifted on the condition containment measures are taken and the infections are closely investigated, Nishimura said.
Experts and officials have urged people to adopt “new lifestyles” and continue practicing distancing measures such as remote working and avoid out-of-town trips, even after the state of emergency is lifted.
MANILA, Philippines — A strong typhoon roared toward the Philippines as authorities work to evacuate tens of thousands of people while avoiding overcrowding in emergency shelters that could spread the coronavirus.
The first typhoon to hit the country this year is expected to slam ashore on eastern islands later Thursday.
Typhoon Vongfong has maximum sustained winds of 150 kph (93 mph) and gusts of up to 185 kph (115 mph).
The Philippines remains under a lockdown to fight the coronavirus.
Governors say social distancing will be nearly impossible for residents staying in emergency shelters. Some shelters are now serving as quarantine facilities, and they may have to be turned back into emergency storm shelters.
UNITED NATIONS — United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is urging governments, civil society and health authorities to urgently address mental health needs arising from the coronavirus pandemic, warning that psychological suffering is increasing.
He pointed to “grief at the loss of loved ones, shock at the loss of jobs, isolation and restrictions on movement, difficult family dynamics, and uncertainty and fear for the future.”
The U.N. chief said in a video message late Wednesday launching a policy briefing that “after decades of neglect and under-investment in mental health services, the COVID-19 pandemic is now hitting families and communities with additional mental stress.”
Guterres said those most at risk and in need of help are front-line health care workers, older people, adolescents, young people, those with pre-existing mental health conditions, and those caught up in conflict and crisis.
He said “mental health services are an essential part of all government responses to COVID-19” and must be expanded and fully funded.
CANBERRA, Australia — Australia says it will continue to push for an inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus, even if it hurts trade relations with China.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison had been accused of playing “deputy sheriff” to the United States after calling for the inquiry. On Thursday, he brushed off the criticism.
“We have always been independent, we have always pursued our national interests, and we always will,” he told reporters. “We will always be Australians in how we engage with the rest of the world, and we will always stand our ground when it comes to the things that we believe in and the values that we uphold.”
China has suspended beef imports from four abattoirs and plans to impose tariffs on Australian barley, after warning the inquiry could harm two-way trade ties.
BEIJING — China reported three new coronavirus cases Thursday while moving to reopen for business and schools.
The National Health Commission said 101 people remain in treatment for COVID-19, while 716 are isolated and being monitored for being suspected cases or for having tested positive for the virus without showing symptoms.
China plans to restart classes for most students on June 1, with other grades to resume at a later date, depending on conditions. No announcement has been made on when university classes will resume.
China has reported a total of 4,633 deaths among 82,929 cases of the virus.