Japan PM Abe to declare state of emergency amid widespread virus infections

Andrew Cummings
April 7, 2020

Japanese prime minister will announce a state of emergency on Tuesday, first in the country's history, in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus, local media reported on Monday.

So far Japan has confirmed 85 deaths.

The PM's office issued a twitter message saying thet Prime Minister Abe attended the 26th Meeting of the Novel Coronavirus Response Headquarters and expressed government's plan to introduce a major economic package as well as enhanced medical responses for the Covid-19, while he also spoke about the emergency declaration to be issued tomorrow. On April 6, Abe met with Yasutoshi Nishimura, Special Measures Law Minister for Economic Revitalization, and Shigeru Omi, president of the Japan Community Health Care Organization, to make final preparations for the declaration, which is required to specify the areas affected and projected timeframe.

Japan had kept its number of coronavirus cases relatively low by closely watching clusters and keeping them under control rather than conducting massive tests, but that strategy has become increasingly hard because of a sharp rise of unlinkable cases. While the figures are low compared to the US, China and parts of Europe, officials are concerned that a surge in infections could place intolerable strain on the country's hospitals.

But there won't be lockdowns like the ones seen in Australia - the Government can only request businesses to close and for residents to avoid non-essential travel.

"If you ask me if we can enforce a lockdown like France, the answer is no", Abe told MPs last week.

Measures are expected to include a stay-at-home request for residents, but there will be no penalties for objectors.

Abe also told reporters Monday that his government will launch a 108 trillion yen ($1 trillion) stimulus package - Japan's largest ever and almost twice as much as expected - to help counter the economic impact of the pandemic, including cash payouts to households in need and financial support to protect businesses and jobs.

Tokyo's metropolitan government has strongly urged people to stay at home as the city of almost 14 million has seen an uptick in the number of cases in recent days.

Government officials say that the state of emergency will take effect from midnight on the morning of 8 April. Businesses that refuse to cooperate face being publicly named and shamed.

To make such a determination, Abe is required to consult a task force convened for the goal last month, which includes legal experts and medical professionals.

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