Japanese cabinet to hand PM Abe emergency powers to battle coronavirus

Japan’s cabinet is expected to approve a bill today that will allow Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to declare a state

coronavirus measures japan

Photo: Reuters/Edgard Garrido

Japan’s cabinet is expected to approve a bill today that will allow Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to declare a state of emergency in response to the coronavirus.

The measure would enable the Japanese government to close schools, limit large gatherings and mandate that citizens stay home. The PM could also implement price controls on medicine and sanitary goods.

Opponents of the bill have questioned the bill’s timing and criticised Abe’s lacklustre response to the outbreak in general. However, Abe has said that a state of emergency would only be declared in the “worst-case scenario” and after consultations with opposition parties.

Infections in Japan are currently found in small clusters. If the virus begins to spread across the country, it may be reasonable to expect a state of emergency. However, the impact of such a decision on Japan’s international status may make Abe hesitant to pull the alarm. The Tokyo Olympic Games, scheduled for July, may be at risk if Japan cedes that the virus is outside of the government’s control. Despite recent increases in government spending designed to curtail the coronavirus’s impact on Japanese businesses, the short-run effects of declaring a state of emergency could throw Japan’s already delicate economy into a recession.

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