Nikkei’s website published a column by a science writer, who expressed the view that Prime Minister Abe’s declaration of a state of emergency over the coronavirus on April 7 may have had little effect in stemming the spread of the virus especially in the Kanto area. The author pointed out that data released on May 14 by the GOJ coronavirus taskforce showed that the number of new cases had already started declining on March 27. Some epidemiologists have reportedly speculated that Tokyo Governor Koike’s reference to a “lockdown” two days earlier and media reports on March 30 that comedian Ken Shimura had died of pneumonia caused by the coronavirus probably prompted many people in the Tokyo metropolitan area to avoid going out even before the premier’s announcement.
Since the real-time effective reproductive ratio of COVID-19, which had hovered at around 2 until March 25, had also fallen below 1 by the end of March, these experts conjectured that the state of emergency probably had limited impact in changing people’s behavior. However, public health professionals believe that the declaration may have been effective in “prolonging” people’s tendency to stay home. The columnist stressed the importance of evaluating the effectiveness of the state of emergency in arresting the spread of the virus in preparation for a “second wave,” adding the data suggests that such a declaration needs to be issued sooner rather than later.