Coronavirus: Japan to announce state of emergency over outbreak

Prime Minister proposed a stimulus package worth $1 trillion amid spike in cases

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe takes off his face mask as he arrives to speak to the media on Japan's response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at his official residence in Tokyo, Japan, April 6, 2020. REUTERS/Issei Kato
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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday the government plans to declare a state of emergency and proposed a stimulus package worth $1 trillion (Dh3.67tn) as new coronavirus infections spike in Tokyo and elsewhere.

"We hope to declare a state of emergency as early as tomorrow after listening to the opinions of the advisory panel," Mr Abe told reporters.

He said the government would roll out a stimulus package worth around 108 trillion yen to cushion the damage to the world's third-biggest economy.

The prime minister said experts on a government-commissioned task force urged him to get the state of emergency ready because the Covid-19 outbreak is rapidly expanding in major cities including Tokyo. He said the state of emergency will cover Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka and four other hard-hit prefectures.

More than 3,500 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Japan and 85 have died – not a huge outbreak compared with some hot spots, but the numbers keep rising. There is articular alarm over Tokyo, which has more than 1,000 cases, including 83 new ones on Monday.

A state of emergency, which Mr Abe said would last about a month, will give governors authority to call on people to stay at home and businesses to close, but not to order the kind of lockdowns seen in other countries. In most cases, there are no penalties for ignoring requests, and enforcement will rely more on peer pressure and respect for authority.

Pressure had been mounting on the government to take the step, although Mr Abe has voiced concern about being too hasty, given the restrictions on movement and businesses that would ensue.

The stimulus package is due to be rolled out this week.

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

Kenji Shibuya, director of the Institute for Public Health at King's College, London, said the emergency was too late given the increase in cases in Tokyo.

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