World

Japan to set up coronavirus task force; no state of emergency for now

TOKYO: Japan will set up a coronavirus task force, the government said yesterday, as it warned of a high risk of a wide spread of the virus, but the Economy Minister said the government was not thinking of declaring a state of emergency now.

Japan has 1,313 domestic cases of coronavirus as of yesterday, separate from 712 from a cruise ship that was moored near Tokyo last month, broadcaster NHK reported. There have been 45 domestic deaths and 10 from the cruise ship.

"I told Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe there is a high risk of coronavirus spreading widely," Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told reporters after meeting Mr Abe and Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura.

Mr Nishimura said Mr Abe told him to "proceed swiftly with setting up the government tas kforce" based on Mr Kato's report. But the government was not considering declaring a state of emergency at the moment.

REVISED LAW

Under a law revised this month to cover the virus, the prime minister can declare a state of emergency if the disease poses a "grave danger" to lives and if its spread threatens serious economic damage. The virus has raised Japan's recession risk.

A state of emergency would allow governors in hard-hit regions to take steps such as asking people to stay home, closing schools and other public facilities and cancelling large events.

Japanese shares tumbled yesterday following three days of big gains after the rise in domestic virus cases stoked worries of tougher domestic restrictions for social distancing.

Hitachi instructed 50,000 employees at its group companies in Tokyo to work from home and avoid unnecessary outings for the time being.

There was a sharp jump in coronavirus cases in Tokyo, making the capital the epicentre of Japan's outbreak. Tokyo had 212 cases as of Wednesday.

The governor of Tokyo warned of the risk of an explosive rise in infections in the capital and asked residents to avoid non-essential outings through April 12.

"The government and local authorities will cooperate based on the awareness that this is a very critical time to prevent the spread of the virus," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yosihide Suga told a news conference. - REUTERS

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