Japan is planning to lift a state of emergency for three more prefectures as the number of new coronavirus cases falls.
Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said Thursday in Tokyo a group of experts have approved a plan to lift the emergency imposed for the western prefectures of Kyoto, Osaka and Hyogo.
The three prefectures were among seven, including Tokyo, that were first placed under a state of emergency last month by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe out of fear the coronavirus outbreak would overwhelm the country's health care system. The prime minister briefly expanded the decree for the entire country.
Tokyo and four other prefectures, including the northern island of Hokkaido, will remain under the state of emergency.
The COVID-19 outbreak has pushed Japan's economy into a recession for the first time since 2015, as its gross domestic product shrank by an annual 3.4 percent in the first three months of 2020, following a contraction in the last quarter of 2019.
Further evidence of the financial blow came Thursday, with the finance ministry releasing figures showing Japan's exports fell 21.9 percent last month, the biggest drop since the 2008 global financial crisis.
Japan has been mildly affected by the coronavirus compared to the rest of the world, with more than 16,000 confirmed infections, including over 700 deaths.