Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Monday the government plans to declare a state of emergency for about a month and proposed a stimulus package worth US$1 trillion as new coronavirus infections spike in Tokyo and elsewhere.
"We hope to declare a state of emergency as early as tomorrow after listening to the opinions of the advisory panel," Abe told reporters.
He added the government would roll out a stimulus package worth around 108 trillion yen to cushion the damage to the world's third-biggest economy.
The stimulus package is due to be rolled out this week.
An emergency would appear to have public support. In a poll published on Monday by JNN, run by broadcaster TBS, 80% of those surveyed said Abe should declare it while 12% said it was not necessary. His approval rating fell by 5.7 points from last month to 43.2%, the survey showed.
Kenji Shibuya, director of the Institute for Public Health at King's College, London, said the emergency was too late given the explosive increase in cases in Tokyo.
"It should have been declared by April 1 at the latest," he said.
Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura called for calm saying there was no need for people in designated prefectures to flee to other regions, which could spread infections, NHK reported.
While Japan's coronavirus epidemic is dwarfed by the 335,000 infections and more than 9,500 deaths in the United States alone, experts worry a sudden surge could overwhelm Japan's medical system.
More than 3,500 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Japan and 85 have died. But the situation in Tokyo has raising concern, which has more than 1,000 cases, including 83 new ones on Monday.
Abe must seek formal advice from a panel of experts before deciding to go ahead and declare the emergency.
Governors in Tokyo and elsewhere have asked citizens to stay home on weekends, avoid crowds and evening outings, and work from home. That has had some effect, but not as much as many experts said was needed. (AFP, Reuters)
Japan aims US$1 trillion boost, month-long emergency
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