COVID-19: Japan PM to declare state of emergency on Tuesday

Marco Green
April 7, 2020

TOKYO (AP) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that he will declare a state of emergency for Tokyo and six other prefectures as early as Tuesday to bolster measures to fight the coronavirus outbreak, but that there will be no hard lockdowns.

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

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.

In most cases, there will be no penalties for ignoring requests to stay at home, and enforcement will rely more on peer pressure and respect for authority.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said the city was in talks with the central government to decide what types of facilities it would ask to close or curtail business hours, while reiterating there would be no restrictions on buying groceries and medicine.

Government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said public transport would not be scaled back but "we will take appropriate measures to reduce person-to-person contacts drastically".

An emergency would appear to have public support. In a poll published on Monday by JNN, run by broadcaster TBS, 80% of those surveyed said Abe should declare it while 12% said it was not necessary. His approval rating fell by 5.7 points from last month to 43.2%, the survey showed.

He said Tokyo's infections are on the brink of being out of control due to a lack of restraint by residents.

"It should have been declared by April 1 at the latest", he said.

Infectious disease experts sitting on the government panel are apparently alarmed by the prospect of an explosive surge as cases in which transmission routes can not be traced have grown.

Abe will hold a news conference at 7pm local time (6pm Singapore), after seeking formal advice on declaring the emergency from a panel of experts.

The declaration, which will be in place for a month after taking effect Wednesday, will enable prefectural governors to take stronger preventive steps, ranging from instructing citizens to stay at home to restricting the operation of schools and other facilities. Nationwide, cases have climbed past 4,000 with 93 deaths as of Monday.

"There may be a limited impact on stimulating consumption given many people are refraining from going shopping", said Masaki Kuwahara, senior economist at Nomura Securities.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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