Japan approves emergency powers for PM Abe to tackle coronavirus outbreak

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during an upper house plenary session at Parliament in Tokyo, on March 11, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japan's Parliament on Friday (March 13) approved a Bill giving Prime Minister Shinzo Abe emergency powers that will let him close schools, halt large gatherings and requisition medical supplies as Japan tries to slow the coronavirus outbreak.

The Bill, which amends a 2012 law drawn up after a flu epidemic in 2009, was approved by Upper House lawmakers after the Lower House passed the legislation on Thursday.

Mr Abe would have to declare a state of emergency in order to use the new powers.

Mr Abe has requested schools to close and organisers of events to cancel large gatherings but so far has not had the power to make them comply.

Japan has almost 1,400 coronavirus cases including about 697 from a cruise ship, according to public broadcaster NHK.

Twenty-six people have died, including seven from the cruise liner Diamond Princess.

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