Japan government weighing need to extend state of emergency, reports say

Multiple unidentified officials said that an extension of the emergency was unavoidable.
Multiple unidentified officials said that an extension of the emergency was unavoidable.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (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 lifting the emergency as planned on May 6 will be difficult, national broadcaster NHK said, without citing anyone. While daily new coronavirus cases in Osaka and Tokyo have begun to fall, experts said the rate of change is not as fast as expected, NHK reported.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared the state of emergency for seven regions on April 8, later extending it to include the whole country. While the pace of infections in many areas has since slowed, more than 100 new cases have still been reported in Tokyo every day for almost two weeks, while deaths in the capital passed 100 on Saturday (April 25).

Multiple unidentified officials in a separate report by the Jiji news agency said that an extension of the emergency was unavoidable, though it was unclear how long or broad such a move would be. One cited said another week was the most that people could endure, while another of the officials cited saw the need to maintain the emergency until the end of May.

The official leading Japan's economic response to the virus, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, on Saturday 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 the authorities lacking the legal powers to punish those who disobey requests to stay at home.

The authorities 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 30, 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.