Japan's Abe says declaring state of emergency over COVID-19 not yet necessary
April 1, 2020 | 5:43 PM
by Xinhua
Representative image

TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday said the nation is not yet at a point where it is necessary to declare a state of emergency over the COVID-19, despite numbers of COVID-19 cases continuing to rise in Japan.

Speaking at an upper house committee meeting on the matter, the Japanese leader said that if and when a decision would be made, it would be done so based on prioritizing people's lives and the health of the public.

While Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has urged Abe to decide whether to declare a state of emergency as cases in the capital continued to rise, the Japanese leader said that for the time being prefectural governors would be allowed to make requests of their citizens and give orders.

Koike previously said that Tokyo is "on the brink," and, as such, the central government needs to make up its mind about the declaration and the issuing of a potential citywide lockdown.

Abe's latest remarks made in the upper house could still see Koike expand the restriction of people's movements in the capital, following her request last weekend for people to stay home and her ongoing call for people to work from home and refrain from going outside in the evenings.

As with Tokyo, Osaka Prefecture has identified nightclubs and other night spots as potential COVID-19 hotspots, with Yoshimura Hirofumi, the governor of Osaka, saying the virus could spread rapidly in night spots that operate until early morning as customers stay in close quarters for relatively long periods of time.

He said the situation, if left unchecked, could lead to an "explosive spread" of cases of the COVID-19.

As of 6:30 p.m. local time Wednesday, official figures showed that 2,362 people have been infected with the COVID-19 virus in Japan, with 66 new cases recorded in Tokyo bringing the total in the capital to 587 cases.

Osaka, meanwhile, has recorded 244 COVID-19 cases, the second-highest nationwide behind Tokyo.

The total death toll nationwide stands at 78, according to the health ministry and local authorities as of Wednesday evening.

Abe, in addition, told the upper house committee meeting that even if a state of emergency were to be declared, it would not necessarily mean that cities nationwide would face an immediate lockdown.

The prime minister suggested that were a declaration to be made, a number of orders may be issued on a case-by-case basis as dictated by the needs of cities and prefectures and as requested by prefectural authorities.

Abe said it would not be possible to implement sweeping lockdowns here as other countries such as France have done, but said that if a state of emergency is declared after parliamentary deliberations, then he stood ready to fulfill his obligations.

He added that such a scenario would mean that the nation is in a state of crisis and citizens here would have to understand that their swift response would be paramount.

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