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PM Abe indicates intention to extend state of emergency

All national papers reported on remarks made to the press last night by Prime Minister Abe in which he implied that he intends to extend the nationwide state of emergency over the coronavirus outbreak beyond May 6. He was quoted as saying: “It will be difficult for the nation to go back to normal beginning on May 7. We need to be prepared for a war of endurance.” Abe underscored that the current situation is still extremely severe in view of the heavy burden borne by healthcare providers. He reportedly met with LDP Secretary General Nikai before speaking to the press to inform Nikai of his plan to maintain the nationwide state of emergency for the time being. The articles speculated that the state of emergency will probably be extended at least through May 31. Asahi projected that the prime minister may announce the extension on May 4.   


According to the articles, Shigeru Omi, the chairman of the GOJ blue ribbon commission on the pandemic made up of virologists and epidemiologists, told PM Abe yesterday that extra efforts need to be made to stem the new pathogen, thus recommending that the state of emergency be maintained beyond early May. A doctor on the same panel told Yomiuri on Thursday that one of the criteria for ending the emergency declaration is the number of cases per day, which he indicated should be less than 100 for the entire nation.


In a related article, Yomiuri highlighted remarks made yesterday by Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Nishimura to National Governors’ Association Chairman Iizumi. The cabinet official in charge of the GOJ’s response to the coronavirus suggested that some prefectures designated as areas that warrant special attention may be removed from the list and other prefectures may be added. The governors’ group reportedly urged the GOJ to extend the state of emergency nationwide and amend the existing law on the coronavirus so as to penalize businesses for refusing to suspend their operations and patients for failing to cooperate with local governments’ efforts to conduct contact tracing. Asahi speculated that Okinawa may be added to the list of prefectures that warrant special attention because tourists from the mainland continue to travel there.


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