Japan is set to declare a state of emergency in Tokyo and six other prefectures as early as Tuesday as coronavirus cases continue to rise in the country. Alongside, the government is gearing up to announce a $990 billion stimulus package to help the economy bounce back, said the country's prime minister Sinzo Abe.
Japan has been criticized for its delayed response in handling the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus. The country has been slammed by the international community as well as the medical community in the country for failing to enforce social distancing measures.
Much like other parts of the world, coronavirus cases have been on the rise in Japan over the past few days. Tokyo particularly has been suffering the most with more than 1,000 cases, with 83 new cases reported on Monday. Understandably, the Japan government doesn't want to delay things further and is taking all possible steps to contain the spread of coronavirus.
Move could come as early as Tuesday
Abe said that the move towards announcing a stage of emergency in Tokyo and six other prefectures could come as early as Tuesday. The measure is likely to be in place for a month, as this will allow local authorities to urge people to maintain social distancing by staying at home and step out only shop for food, seek medical care and go to work only if extremely necessary.
"We hope to declare a state of emergency as early as tomorrow after listening to the opinions of the advisory panel," Abe told reporters on Monday. However, in most cases, people not keeping the request to stay at home won't attract penalties. Instead, the enforcement will be more dependent on peer pressure and self responsibility. Abe had long been under pressure to announce a state of emergency following the coronavirus outbreak but he had voiced his concerns over slowing business activity following such an action.
Is the decision too late?
Japan so far has reported more than 3,500 cases of coronavirus, with 85 deaths. Although the numbers look far lower compared to more than 335,000 infections worldwide and 9,500 deaths in the US, Japan has been criticized for delaying measures to contain the spread of coronavirus.
The United States and Germany have particularly been critical of Japan's failure to enforce social distancing in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Also some local medical experts say that the order is coming a bit too late and the outbreak in Tokyo is already beyond the point where it can be easily controlled now.
It is being said that Abe and his officials started taking the coronavirus outbreak seriously only after only after it became evident that the Tokyo Summer Olympics, initially scheduled to be held this year, would have to be postponed. Although schools and many other public facilities have been closed for a month, and many are working from home, but Japan's efforts to curb socializing at bars and restaurants have failed.
Government readying to announce coronavirus stimulus
Abe also said that he plans to unveil "unprecedented" stimulus measures in response to the "biggest crisis" the country's economy has faced since the World War II. In all likelihood the stimulus package is going to be around 108 trillion yen, according to Abe. This includes more than 6 trillion yen in cash payouts to households and small businesses. Also, 26 trillion yen will be reserved to allow deferred social security and tax payments owing to the coronavirus outbreak.
The stimulus package, said Abe, is aimed at helping the country's economy get back on its feet. The coronavirus stimulus, which is yet to be finalized, is bigger than the country's response following the 2009 financial crisis. However, it is still unclear how much of the stimulus package will be in the form new government spending.