Abe set to declare coronavirus emergency for Japan

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe leaves the office wearing a mask, April 5. © Kyodo

TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe decided on Monday to declare a coronavirus emergency, Nikkei has learned, as new cases in the capital increase at a record pace. The government will hold an unofficial meeting of a panel of experts and start preparing for the declaration.

Tokyo and surrounding areas, as well as Osaka, are expected to be affected by the declaration.

Abe met with parties including Health Minister Katsunobu Kato and Yasutoshi Nishimura, the economic and fiscal policy minister, on Sunday to discuss the spread of infections.

“If necessary, we will decide [to declare an emergency] without hesitation,” said Nishimura, who heads the government’s coronavirus response, on a show of public broadcaster NHK on Sunday. “We are looking for signs of an overshoot,” he said, referring to an explosion in cases, and noted that the atmosphere has grown extremely tense.

On the same program, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike called on the central government to issue an emergency declaration promptly.

An emergency declaration gives governors in the areas covered formal powers, such as issuing requests that people stay home. A declaration could come any day now, a cabinet member said Sunday.

The constitution does not permit the government to demand that individuals stay home, owing to civil liberties concerns.

The prime minister is supposed to ask an advisory panel of experts for its opinion before declaring an emergency, in addition to notifying both houses of parliament in advance.

Abe has been criticized for not having already declared an emergency — a hesitance thought by many to stem from a strong desire to hold the Olympics this summer in Tokyo as originally planned. The International Olympic Committee decided in late March to postpone the games to 2021 after consulting with the prime minister and others.


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