The so-called quasi-state of emergency curbs currently applied in 18 of Japan’s 47 prefectures centred on limiting hours for eateries and other businesses.
Officials in the western prefecture of Osaka had considered requesting an extension of the restrictions due to high hospitalisations, but ultimately decided to let them expire.
The measures have weighed on the economy, particularly the service sector.
“A certain amount of services demand will be unleashed if the curbs are lifted as households have quite a lot of savings now and it coincides with the spring holidays,” said Daiju Aoki, chief Japan economist at UBS SuMi TRUST Wealth Management.
Health experts have said the current Omicron wave is not over, and new variants could emerge at any time. But the restrictions, used repeatedly during the two-year pandemic, have lost their effectiveness on public behaviour, said Tohoku University professor Hitoshi Oshitani.
“We need to have a different strategy to suppress the transmission at this stage,” said Oshitani, a lead adviser on the government’s pandemic response. “It’s still premature to discuss a kind of exit strategy from this virus.”
Kishida had been widely expected to announce a further easing of border restrictions by lifting the daily quota of arrivals, according to media reports, but did not touch on border measures at all in the hour-long news conference.