Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has announced the end of his state of emergency declaration for the novel coronavirus pandemic, with just 851 deaths reported and without ever implementing a lockdown.
Abe cautioned that lifting the order did not mean that the novel virus was gone from Japan. "Our battle against the virus will continue," he said, while urging the Japanese people to continue following stringent social distancing guidance.
As of Monday, the East Asian nation had reported 16,628 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus. Of those infected, 13,612 have already recovered and 851 have died. Tokyo, the nation's capital with 14 million residents, was the hardest-hit part of the country, with more than 5,100 cases. On Monday, the city reported just eight new infections.
It's unclear why Japan has a relatively low infection rate and a comparatively small number of deaths due to COVID-19. Abe has faced criticism for taking little action to curb the virus' spread as many other nations implemented stringent lockdowns.
"Just by looking at death numbers, you can say Japan was successful," Mikihito Tanaka, a professor at Waseda University specializing in science communication, and a member of a public group of experts on the novel virus, told Bloomberg. "But even experts don't know the reason."