The Japanese government has declared a month-long state of emergency over the growing effect of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the Asian country.
The government has come under pressure to tackle an outbreak that remains small by global standards but there are concerns among Japanese medical experts, with warnings that local healthcare systems are already overstretched.
Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, while announcing the measures, urged citizens to exhibit the spirit of togetherness which was witnessed after the country’s devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown in 2011.
We are again facing a great difficulty. However, if we work together once again with hope, we will rise to the challenge and move forward.
We will beat the virus, we will defeat the virus and we can overcome the ordeal of this state of emergency.”
Although there are no enforcement mechanisms and no penalties for those who fail to comply, the move allows governors in seven affected regions including Tokyo to ask people to stay indoors and request that businesses close.
Although a state of emergency is declared, it won’t mean a city lockdown as seen overseas,” Abe said, pledging public transport would run as normal and roads would not be blocked.
Urging people to take the declaration seriously, he told citizens that everything will depend on their actions while warning that people would have to reduce contacts by 70-80 per cent if the emergency was to be lifted in a month.
Meanwhile, pressure to declare an emergency grew after several days of recording new infections in Tokyo, with about 80 cases reported on Tuesday. Although the numbers are far smaller than in many parts of the world.
Similarly, Governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike, has asked residents to avoid unnecessary outings and work from home but pushed for an emergency declaration to give her requests legal strength.
Tokyo, neighbouring Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama, the western hub of Osaka and neighbouring Hyogo, and the southwestern region of Fukuoka, are the seven regions covered by the month-long declaration.
The measure, in the meantime, will last to the end of the Golden Week holiday; one of the country’s biggest travel periods.