Japan considers extending state of emergency beyond early May

While the number of new coronavirus cases has begun to fall, experts say the rate of change is not as fast as expected

A street  in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo, Japan: People have been urged to stay at home, although there are no penalties for non-compliance. Photograph: Soichiro Koriyama/Bloomberg

A street in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo, Japan: People have been urged to stay at home, although there are no penalties for non-compliance. Photograph: Soichiro Koriyama/Bloomberg

 

As Japan nears three weeks under a state of emergency to tackle the spread of the coronavirus, reports indicate that the government is weighing the need to extend the emergency beyond early May.

There is a growing view within the government that it may not be possible to fully lift the emergency as planned on May 6th, national broadcaster NHK said, without citing anyone. While the number of new coronavirus cases reported daily in Osaka and Tokyo has begun to fall, experts say the rate of change is not as fast as expected, NHK reported.

Tokyo recorded its second straight decline in the daily toll Sunday with 72 new coronavirus cases, the first time in 13 days that the number of infections has been below 100. Deaths in the city passed 100 on Saturday. Multiple unidentified officials said in a separate report by Jiji that an extension of the emergency was unavoidable, though it was unclear how long or broad such a move would be. One was cited as saying one more week was the most that people could endure, while another saw the need to maintain the emergency until the end of May. The Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, first imposed the measure on seven regions on April 8th and later extended it to include the whole country.

Japan’s economy minister Yasutoshi Nishimura yesterday announced he was isolating at home as a precautionary measure after a member of his staff was infected with the coronavirus.

Japan has avoided the type of full lockdown used in many Western countries, with some businesses including bars and hairdressers, remaining open, and authorities lacking the legal powers to punish those who disobey requests to stay at home. Officials have called for people to cut interactions with others by 80 per cent, with Tokyo branding the next two weeks, which include a period of national holidays, as “stay at home weeks”, urging families to stay in their residences. While some expect Mr Abe to make a decision on an extension by April 30th, the Jiji report said, another official saw that as too early, citing the need to see how people would travel during the Golden Week holidays.

– Bloomberg