Daily US Times, Tokyo: Japanese media report that Shinzo Abe is set to declare a state of emergency, after coronavirus cases in the capital Tokyo jumped over the weekend to top 1,000, raising worries of a more explosive surge.
Mr Abe might announce the emergency as soon as Monday. Just last week, he said the situation didn’t yet call for such a move, but now changed his course. The Yomiuri newspaper reported the formal declaration for the Tokyo area will be coming as early as Tuesday and according to Kyodo News and other media reports, Osaka is also likely to be included.
Nikkei newspaper said the process for making the declaration picked up pace Monday, with an advisory panel on the virus, which must be consulted before a decision, set to meet at 2 p.m., and Abe is expected to address a meeting of a separate virus task force after 6 p.m.
Any declaration would be “comprehensive” and based on the opinions of experts, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said. The declaration could go into effect as Japan’s biggest-ever stimulus package worth 60 trillion yen ($550 billion) is set to be announced Tuesday.
The state of emergency doesn’t enable a European-style lockdown. The government took the decision after pressure from the medical community and local governors, and it will be issued for specific areas and a time period will be set.
Declaring a state of emergency hands powers to local governments, including to urge residents to stay at home, but unlike some other countries though, there is no legal power to enforce such requests due to civil liberties protections in Japanese law.
A recent poll shows the popularity of Abe’s government is falling significantly. Broadcaster JNN released a poll on Monday which shows the government saw its approval rating slip to its lowest since October 2018 with a majority of respondents faulting the way the government has managed the virus crisis.
80% of respondents said the declaration should be made.
The governors of Osaka and Tokyo have been pushing for the declaration as the recent spike in cases sparked concerns Japan is headed for a crisis on the levels seen in the U.S. and several countries in Europe.
Japan was one of the first countries to report coronavirus cases outside of the main epicenter China. As of Monday, the country has reported 3,150 cases- a jump ess than 500 just a month ago.
Japan’s cases is the lowest of any Group of Seven country, although the country might be finding fewer mild cases because it has conducted a relatively small number of tests.
Last week, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo advised American citizens to return home, saying Japan’s low testing rate makes it hard to accurately assess the prevalence of the virus.
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