Japan declares coronavirus emergency, approves near $1 trillion stimulus
April 7, 2020
TOKYO (Reuters) – 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% 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%, we should be able to see a peak in the number of infections in two weeks,” he said. The government also approved the stimulus package worth 108 trillion yen (£806.40 billion) - equal to 20% 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% of US output for the stimulus package laid out by President Donald Trump and 5% of output for Germany’s package. Direct fiscal spending amount to 39.5 trillion yen, or about 7% 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. Abe has stressed that the state of emergency will stop short of imposing a formal lockdown as seen in other countries. The emergency gives governors the authority to call on people to stay at home and businesses to close. With no penalties for ignoring the requests in most cases, enforcement will rely more on peer pressure and respect for authority. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said the city was in talks with the central government to decide what types of facilities it would ask to close or curtail business hours, while reiterating there would be no restrictions on buying groceries and medicine.