Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared April 7 a state of emergency for Tokyo, Osaka and five other prefectures to curb the spread of the new coronavirus after an alarming growth in cases in urban areas.
The declaration, effective through May 6, will enable prefectural governors to take stronger preventive steps, ranging from instructing citizens to stay at home to restricting the operation of schools and other facilities, although there are no legal penalties for noncompliance.
Measures to be taken based on the first such declaration in Japan could curtail rights and freedoms to some extent, but likely won’t lead to the scale of harsh lockdowns seen in other countries such as China and France due to the limits of Japanese law.
“We’re in a situation in which the spread of infections is rapid and widespread across the country, threatening to seriously impact people’s lives and the economy,” Abe told a meeting of a government task force as he declared a state of emergency.
Roughly 56 million people — about 45% of Japan’s total population — in Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama as well as in Osaka, Hyogo and Fukuoka, will be asked to refrain from nonessential outings. Grocery shopping, visits to hospitals and commuting are excluded. (Kyodo)