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Editorial: Central, local govts should team up to devise exit strategy for epidemic

  • May 20, 2020
  • , The Japan News , 12:46 p.m.
  • English Press

Cooperation between the central and local governments is essential to resume economic activities and gradually restore people’s daily lives. The authorities must strive to provide information in a careful and accurate manner.


In the eight prefectures still under a state of emergency over the new coronavirus, there is a growing movement to lift the calls for businesses to suspend their operations.


The Tokyo metropolitan government unveiled numerical targets for the easing of measures against the spread of the virus, including seeing “fewer than 20 new daily cases on average.” It presented a road map to ease the restrictions gradually, starting with the opening of libraries and art museums. The Osaka prefectural government also worked out its own standards and has drastically lifted its restrictions since Saturday.


Tokyo and Osaka, where much of the population is concentrated, are cities that lead the Japanese economy. It is reasonable for them to present a path for resuming activities and implement it strategically. It is hoped that they will proceed with it steadily by taking into account medical systems’ ability to accept serious cases, and other factors, in preparation for a reemergence of infections.


What is worrisome is the failure of the central and local governments to take concerted action.


The Osaka prefectural government strongly criticized the central government, saying it has not set criteria for lifting the calls for the suspension of business operations. The central government and the Tokyo metropolitan government have had differing opinions over the scope of the calls, as well.


The revised law on special measures against new types of influenza leaves it up to prefectural governors to ask people to refrain from going out or suspend business operations. The central government plays a role in “overall coordination” with local governments and related organizations.


The involvement of the central government is natural when measures that have a major impact on society and the economy are implemented. Administrative confusion between the central and local governments could cause anxiety among residents.


The fight against the virus is a long-term battle. It is advisable for the central and local governments to establish a framework for constant discussions so that they can communicate smoothly.


The central government has established a special subsidy program for local governments to deal with the infectious disease. It is necessary to expand the program and support measures taken by local governments.


It is worthy of consideration to review the nation’s preparedness for the current epidemic in order to determine the infection situation and take appropriate measures.


The central government set up a panel of experts in February. In addition, it has held an advisory panel since March based on the special measures law.


The panel of experts proposed that 39 prefectures be newly divided into those under “warning against the spread of infection” and those under “observation for the infection” depending on their infection status, when the state of emergency was lifted in the 39 prefectures. However, the central government has not clearly explained how it intends to position the classification.


There is considerable overlap in the membership of the two panels. They are similar in that they both provide advice to the central government and compile countermeasures. Their roles should be sorted out.


Earlier this month, the central government added economic experts to the advisory panel. It is desirable to improve preparedness for the epidemic in order to consider the way society should be from a broad perspective.


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