Photo/Illutration A deserted street in Tokyo’s Ueno district on Aug. 13 (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

The central government sees light at the end of the tunnel around November, drafting a plan to ease anti-virus restrictions in areas under a state of emergency at that time, expecting that vaccinations will be widespread by then. 

Eateries will then be allowed to serve alcoholic beverages and events can be held without strict limits on attendees.

Officials are expected to make a formal decision at a meeting of the central government’s headquarters on the COVID-19 pandemic on Sept. 9.

However, some experts have expressed concern that the central government discussing a plan to ease restrictions while the infection situation has not been brought under control may cause people to drop their guard.

“I am worried that by making such an announcement at this time will adversely affect” people’s minds and loosen their "infection control practices," Toshio Nakagawa, the head of the Japan Medical Association, said at a news conference on Sept. 8.

If the central government makes the decision too early, infections will likely spread again, Nakagawa warned.

Under the government plan, people and businesses are encouraged to utilize certificates given for having been vaccinated twice or testing negative for the novel coronavirus.

Even when certain areas are placed under a state of emergency or pre-emergency measures, restrictions over serving alcohol and requests to close early will be eased as long as the eateries are certified by a third party such as a local government.

Customers with proof of being fully vaccinated or having a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test will be allowed to hold a group dinner, for example.

Restrictions on the number of spectators at a large-scale event will be eased, too, even for areas under a state of emergency or pre-emergency measures, as long as the organizers can track an infection route by using a QR code system or other means.

Such restrictions will be completely lifted in areas not under a state of emergency or pre-emergency measures.

Travel restrictions and related self-voluntary requests will also be removed if participants are fully vaccinated.

Students will be allowed to participate, in principle, in club activities and after-school activities even in areas under a state of emergency as long as they are fully vaccinated or can show a negative PCR test result.

The central government is expected to conduct demonstration trials before full-fledged easing of the restrictions starts around November.

If the infection situation improves in areas under pre-emergency measures, the government will likely allow eateries that are certified by a third party to serve alcohol and remain open longer.

Restrictions on the number of spectators at events will also be eased in such cases. 

The draft said progress in vaccinations and the distribution of drugs to treat COVID-19 will “lower the necessity to strongly control people's lives and socio-economic activities.”

But the draft also said it will be necessary to tighten the rules if the infection situation worsens and new strains of COVID-19 spread rapidly and overwhelm health care systems.