Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (right) speaks as he declares a state of emergency in Tokyo. AFP
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday declared a state of emergency to fight new coronavirus infections in major population centres and unveiled a stimulus package he described as among the world's biggest to soften the economic blow.
The state of emergency, giving authorities more power to press people to stay at home and businesses to close, will last through May 6 and be imposed in the capital, Tokyo, and six other prefectures — accounting for about 44 per cent of Japan's population.
"The most important thing now is for each citizen to change our actions," Abe said in televised comments made at a meeting of a government task force.
"If each of us can reduce contact with other people by at least 70%, and ideally by 80 per cent, we should be able to see a peak in the number of infections in two weeks," he said.
His cabinet will also finalise the stimulus package worth 108 trillion yen ($990 billion) — equal to 20 per cent of Japan's economic output — to cushion the impact of the epidemic on the world's third-largest economy.
That exceeds the equivalent of 11 per cent of US output for the stimulus package laid out by President Donald Trump and 5 per cent of output for Germany's package.
Abe said direct fiscal spending would amount to 39 trillion yen, or 7 per cent of the economy, more than double the amount Japan spent following the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers.
Japan has been spared the big outbreaks of the coronavirus seen in other global hot spots, but a recent, steady rise in infections in Tokyo, Osaka and other areas led to growing calls for Abe to announce a state of emergency.
Coronavirus infections in Tokyo more than doubled to about 1,200 in the past week, with more than 80 new ones reported on Tuesday, accounting for the highest number in the country. Nationwide, cases have climbed past 4,000 with 93 deaths as of Monday.Reuters
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is scheduled to hold a news conference at 6pm (0900 GMT) when he is expected to announce the lifting of the emergency in 39 of Japan's 47 prefectures, but not in Tokyo.
A survey published in the Nikkei daily on Monday showed 55% of respondents disapproved of Abe's handling of the crisis, up 11 points from a previous poll, although support for his cabinet was little changed at 49%, after a decline this year.
Monday's first-quarter GDP data underlined the broadening impact of the outbreak, with exports plunging the most since the devastating March 2011 earthquake as global lockdowns and supply chain disruptions hit shipments of Japanese goods.
The Ministry stressed in a statement on Friday that its aim to continue expanding the scope of testing nationwide to facilitate the early detection of coronavirus cases and carry out the necessary treatment.
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