Tokyo: Japan’s government began preparing Monday for the declaration of a state of emergency over the outbreak of the new coronavirus, as infections spike in the capital Tokyo and elsewhere.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was expected to meet late Monday with a panel of experts advising the government on the global pandemic, with widespread reports that he would announce a state of emergency as soon as Tuesday.
The move comes as infections grow steadily — though in far smaller numbers than in Europe or the United States. Tokyo announced a record 148 new cases on Sunday, and pressure has increased on the government to take fresh action.
Tokyo’s Governor Yuriko Koike has already urged residents of the capital to avoid non-essential outings on weekends and to work from home during the week. “We’ve not received anything formal but we are preparing various things assuming Tokyo will be designated,” she told reporters Monday, when asked about a possible declaration.
Koike is expected to outline how the declaration would affect the capital at a press conference later Monday. The declaration will reportedly only cover parts of the country where infections are increasing rapidly, and falls far short of the strict lockdown measures seen elsewhere in the world.
It will allow governors of areas affected to ask, but not order, residents to stay home, and call on businesses that attract crowds to shut their doors. It allows the commandeering of land and buildings for medical purposes.
But there is no legal power to enforce requests for people to stay inside, and no punishments mandated for those who fail to do so.
Public transport will continue to run, though reports Monday said Tokyo might ask train operators to reduce services by up to 50 percent, and supermarkets, banks and hospitals will remain open. Experts say Japan’s legal system restricts the government’s ability to limit the movement of citizens.