Japan to declare state of emergency for Tokyo, other areas

Daniel Fowler
April 7, 2020

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe is set to declare a month-long state of emergency over the coronavirus pandemic, two weeks after the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games were postponed until 2021 because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

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.

The emergency will give governors the authority to call on people to stay at home and businesses to close. With no penalties for ignoring the requests in most cases, enforcement will rely more on peer pressure and respect for authority.

"The government wants to help businesses continue and protect jobs", Abe said.

The stimulus package of hundreds of billions of dollars is due to be rolled out this week.

And there are signs the public is on board, with a poll published by private broadcaster TBS on Monday showing 80 per cent of participants supported a declaration of emergency. His approval rating fell by 5.7 points from last month to 43.2%, the survey showed.

The number of cases with untraceable transmission routes had increased in recent days, Governor Yuriko Koike said in a livecast YouTube video today, adding it was worrying that there were a number of people who were infected at hospitals.

Up to now, Abe has said Japan was on the brink of a wide-scale outbreak but had been holding the line against the pandemic that originated in China and has spread since late past year.

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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.

Besides Tokyo, where a surge in new cases has made the capital the worst-hit area in the country, stay-at-home requests have also been issued by prefectures including Osaka, Fukui, Fukuoka, Miyagi and Ibaraki.

Government officials say that the state of emergency will take effect from midnight on the morning of 8 April.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that he will declare a state of emergency for Tokyo and six other prefectures as early as Tuesday, April 7, to bolster measures to fight the coronavirus outbreak, but that there will be no hard lockdowns.

Global cases of the new coronavirus have shot past 1 million with more than 64,000 deaths.

Abe must seek formal advice from a panel of experts before deciding to go ahead and declare the emergency.

Governors in Tokyo and elsewhere have asked citizens to stay home on weekends, avoid crowds and evening outings, and work from home.

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