Japan poised to declare state of emergency over coronavirus

07 Avril, 2020, 01:58 | Auteur: Auguste Feret
  • Tokyo reports 143 new COVID-19 cases, highest jump in one day

In Tokyo there are now more than 1,000 confirmed cases, more than double the number a week ago.

Japan has so far been spared the sort of crisis seen in parts of Europe and the United States, with around 3,650 cases across the country - compared to around 330,000 in the USA and around 130,000 in Italy and Spain.

Abe said Monday it would cover Tokyo, as well as neighbouring Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama, the western hub of Osaka and neighbouring Hyogo, as well as the southwestern region of Fukuoka.

The declaration will allow the governors of Japan's 47 prefectures to call on people to stay at home and businesses to close, but they will not have the legal authority to impose the kind of lockdowns seen in other countries, or to fine residents who ignore the request.

Abe said he will hold a news conference on Tuesday to further explain the state of emergency.

"We chose to carry out an unprecedentedly massive scale of economic package worth 108 trillion yen, or 20% of GDP, following the huge damage to the economy from the novel coronavirus", Abe told reporters after a meeting with senior ruling party lawmakers.

He also announced a much larger-than-expected stimulus package of 108 trillion yen ($988 billion) to support households and businesses struggling from the impact of the pandemic. More than 1,000 cases were reported from there.

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In the last couple of days, pressure has been mounting on Abe to take stringent steps.

Katsuyuki Hasegawa, chief economist at the Mizuho Research Institute, called on the government to form an extensive economic rescue package for regional economies, which "will be worn down" as tourist traffic dries up and product shipments to Tokyo and its surrounding areas dwindle.

Sounding an alarm over the high rate of cases that could not be traced, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike indicated last week that she would favour a state of emergency as a way to help her urge residents to abide by stronger social-distancing measures.

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.

An expert on the government's coronavirus panel said Japan could avoid an explosive rise by reducing person-to-person contact by 80%.

The government must show "guts" in levelling with the public, with Abe being specific in his declaration about how people should conduct daily life.

"It really depends on the speech by Prime Minister Abe", said Wada, a professor at International University of Health and Welfare in Tokyo.

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