Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, has declared a one-month state of emergency in response to the rapidly increasing number of Coronavirus infections in big cities of the country.
The Prime Minister declared a one-month emergency period from April 7 that will cover Osaka, Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba, Hyogo and Fukuoka prefectures as well as the capital.
Shinzo Abe warned that hospitals were reaching capacity and Japan was making plans to house the mildly sick in unused Olympic facilities.
The move hands powers to local governments to try to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus including by urging residents to stay at home.
“Apart from essential services, I want all office workers to work from home,” Abe told a news conference adding,” if no intervention takes place, infections could reach about 80,000 in a month.”
Facilities meant for the now-delayed Tokyo Olympics will be re-purposed to house about 800 people with mild infections and the government has arranged for housing in thousands of hotel rooms in Tokyo and Osaka, he said.
The areas covered by the declaration represent about half of Japan’s economy, deepening fears that output will plunge by as much as 20% in the current quarter. By pushing such a large part of the nation’s output and consumption toward what may be seen as a “soft-lockdown,” Abe risks contributing toward an economic contraction some analysts say will be bigger than the hit from the global financial crisis.
Japan has so far been spared the sort of virus outbreak seen in parts of Europe and the United States, with close to 4,000 confirmed infections and 80 deaths.