Japan to extend virus emergency as early as Monday

A woman wearing a face mask walks at a park in Yokohama on April 29. (AP pic)

TOKYO: Japan will extend its state of emergency for containing the novel coronavirus as early as Monday, public broadcaster NHK reported on Friday, after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said it would be difficult to return to everyday life.

Some countries are restarting business activity after closures and social distancing measures to contain the spread of the virus, even as Japan has seen far fewer infections and deaths than hot spots in the US and Europe.

But the Japanese government has called for vigilance during the long Golden Week holiday – normally a peak travel period – that runs through May 6, calling on people to stay home and reduce contact with others.

The government will formally decide to extend the emergency as soon as Monday after convening a meeting of experts on the virus, NHK said, without citing sources.

The emergency is currently set to expire on May 6.

The government is planning to extend the emergency for about a month, sources have told Reuters.

Abe told reporters on Thursday night that Japan needed to prepare for a “drawn-out battle.”

He initially declared the emergency on April 7 for Tokyo and other major population areas after a jump in infections and later extended it nationwide.

The emergency gives governors greater power to tell people to stay at home and ask businesses to close, but it does not mandate penalties in most cases for non-compliance, relying instead on social pressure and respect for authority.

Japan has had more than 14,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 436 deaths, according to an NHK tally.

Of the confirmed cases, more than 4,000 were in Tokyo, with 46 new ones on Thursday.

Tokyo has seen a decline in daily reported cases since hitting a peak of 201 on April 17, with further falls into double digits this week, but the city’s Governor Yuriko Koike has warned residents not to be complacent.

There are also worries that Japan’s low testing regime has undercounted many coronavirus cases.

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