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Reuters: Japan could raise a state of emergency in many regions this week if new cases of coronavirus are under control, the Economy Minister said on Monday, as the gradual return to economic activity approaches.

The state of emergency, in place since last month, gives governors of the 47 prefectures stronger legal authority to urge people to stay at home and businesses to close, but there are no fines or arrests for non-compliance.

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Last week, the government extended the emergency to the end of May, saying it would reassess the situation on May 14. Some non-essential companies, even in the 13 hardest-hit prefectures, designated as "special alert districts", including Tokyo and Osaka, have reopened despite the extension.

Japan prevented an explosive outbreak of the new coronavirus, with about 15,800 domestic cases and 630 deaths. The number of new infections has been on a downward trend in the past week.

"We have managed to move steadily towards the end," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a parliamentary session, referring to the epidemic.

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Shibuya's famous crossing is quieter than usual in the midst of a state of emergency due to the spread of the new coronavirus. Photo: Daisuke Asauchi / AFLO / REX / Shutterstock

Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said the government could suspend the emergency this week in regions that have seen a noticeable improvement, even among the 13 hardest-hit municipalities, while warning that any reversal of the trend could change that.

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"If signs of overshoots appear after the uprising, we would need to consider reimplementation," he said in parliament.

Abe warned of a long battle with the virus and asked the public to continue practicing social detachment. People would need to adopt a "new lifestyle" for the coronavirus era, he said, even after the state of emergency was lifted.

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