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Editorial: All-embracing measures needed to fight coronavirus, protect livelihoods

  • March 11, 2020
  • , The Japan News , 2:58 p.m.
  • English Press

It is vital to minimize the blow dealt to the life of the people by the spread of infections caused by the new coronavirus.


At a government headquarters for combating the infectious disease, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed his intention of calling for continued voluntary restraint in holding large-scale events for another 10 or so days.


His move was in response to the opinion formed by a government panel of experts, which concluded that the ongoing vigilance against the coronavirus outbreak cannot be weakened. This is inevitable for curbing the chain of infections. Comprehensive efforts must be made to protect the medical care system and the life of the people.


It is worrisome that, since the end of last month, there has been a succession of incidents in which the prime minister abruptly announces a new policy but leaves relevant responses until later, such as designing detailed measures for the policy and making the policy well-known to the public. This was also true with restrictions on people entering Japan from China and South Korea. At first, he did not offer sufficient explanations, which spread unrest among the people and corporations concerned.


The prime minister’s determination to take all possible means of averting a crisis is understandable. However, the lack of careful preparation and meticulous explanations will serve to create confusion. Based on specialists’ expertise, he should lead each government ministry and agency and carry out necessary measures with a sense of unity.


In response to the situation in which the damage caused to the economy by the outbreak is increasingly remarkable, the government has decided on a second batch of emergency measures.


Create financial support


Voluntary restraint on people leaving home or restrictions on people entering Japan from overseas can greatly affect services industries in which the ratio of non-regular employees is high, such as tourism, leisure and dining. The suspension of business operations in these industries directly leads to large cuts in these workers’ income. It is necessary to give consideration to people whose livelihoods will experience difficulties.


Small and midsize enterprises, even those that are financially sound, easily face cash flow problems due to a temporary drop in revenue. If many bankruptcies occur, it will lead to an increase in the number of people out of work, causing the economy to take a downturn.


All possible measures must be taken until the situation returns to normal.


The government is set to establish a special lending system targeting small and midsize enterprises whose sales have sharply decreased, enabling them to obtain loans, in effect, without interest or collateral. It has also urged private-sector financial institutions to accept such requests from these firms as delays in debt repayments.


The manufacturing industry, including large corporations, is being more and more widely influenced by disruptions in its parts supply chains. To support them in returning their production bases to Japan, measures include extending low-interest loans to them for capital investment and other purposes. It is desirable to restructure the parts supply chains, which excessively rely on China.


More than a few parents are struggling to handle both their child-rearing and work due to the temporary closure of schools. The government will make up for part of the pay cut taken by parents and guardians who have taken time off from work. It will also extend financial support to the self-employed and others who have had to suspend their business operations.


It is important to alleviate the anxiety of people through carefully attentive measures.


The government will use reserve funds included in the fiscal 2019 budget and other budgetary means to implement emergency measures. If necessary, it should consider drafting a supplementary budget for fiscal 2020.


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