Japan declares nationwide state of emergency

Japanese PM Shinzo Abe on Thursday expanded a state of emergency to include the entire country, and said the government was considering cash payouts for all in an effort to stem the coronavirus outbreak and soften the economic downturn. The move allows regional governments to urge people to stay inside, but without punitive measures or legal force. The state of emergency will remain in force until 6 May.

With more than 9,000 infections and nearly 200 deaths nationally, the government has declared an emergency in Tokyo and six areas including western Osaka on 7 April, and now other regions have sought to be added amid worries about the spreading virus.  Abe said the emergency was aimed at reducing traffic during the Golden Week holiday season around the start of May.

“We absolutely need to avoid people moving across prefectures in order to prevent the spread of the virus going forward toward Golden Week,” he said. Abe is under pressure to do more to control the virus amid perceptions his response has been too little, too late, denting his support among voters.

Health minister Katsunobu Kato said officials were worried about the rapid spread of infections, which have increased 2.2 times between April 7 and Wednesday. In particular, officials are worried that travellers during the holiday could carry the virus to places where infections have so far been low, Kato said. Abe is due to hold a news conference at 6:00 p.m. JST (0900 GMT) on Friday for further explanations.

So far Abe has said that the government was considering cash payouts of 100,000 yen ($930) for everyone, an attempt to cushion the blow to the world’s third-largest economy. The government’s supplementary budget plan has set aside funds for cash payouts of 300,000 yen to households whose incomes have been hit by the virus, but that will be changed to the individual payouts, a government official with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

More on this subject: Coronavirus

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