AGENCIES, Tokyo: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a state of emergency on Tuesday for some of the hardest coronavirus districts and suburbs in Japan.
The state of emergency effective through May 6 will cover Tokyo, Osaka and five other prefectures. In the interim period, prefectural governors are expected to take stronger preventive steps, ranging from instructing citizens to stay at home to restricting the operation of schools and other facilities, though there are no legal penalties for non-compliance.
Measures to be taken based on the first-ever such declaration in Japan could curtail people’s rights and freedoms to some extent. But it will not lead to hard lockdowns on a scale seen in other countries hit by the virus like China, India and France due to the limits of the Japanese law.
During a meeting of a government task force on COVID-19, Abe declared a state of emergency based on a recently amended law to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. He consulted an advisory panel of experts in infectious diseases and public health who gave the go-ahead earlier, completing the required process.
“We are in a situation in which the spread of infections is rapid and widespread across the country, threatening to seriously impact people’s lives and the economy,” Abe told the task force meeting.
Abe said people need to change their behaviour to prevent the virus from spreading further by refraining from going outside and reducing contact with people.
“We are not planning to carry out lockdowns similar to those overseas and will maintain services such as public transportation that are necessary for our economy and society as much as possible,” Abe said.
People in the Tokyo metropolitan area — Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama — as well as in Osaka, Hyogo and Fukuoka, will be requested to refrain from unnecessary outings. Grocery shopping, visits to hospital, and commuting are excluded.
Abe also said the government does not plan to ask train operators to reduce services.