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COVID-19: Japan moves towards national emergency

Cabinet okays bill granting premier power to declare emergency, also approves $9.6B package for embattled businesses

Riyaz ul Khaliq   | 10.03.2020
COVID-19: Japan moves towards national emergency


Japan’s government on Tuesday finalized a bill granting the prime minister power to declare a nationwide state of emergency over the coronavirus outbreak.

According to Kyodo News, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet approved the draft, a revised version of a similar 2013 law, and it would now be presented before the parliament.

The bill is expected to be passed by the upper and lower houses on Thursday and Friday, respectively.

If and when an emergency is declared, provincial prefectural governors will be empowered to ask residents to stay indoors, close down schools, and cancel events.

Abe also asked officials on Tuesday to call off or postpone sports and cultural events until at least March 19, when a government team will carry out a review of Japan’s fight against COVID-19.

The new date marks an extension of 10 days in the premier’s initial timeline.

Japan, which is due to host the Olympics and Paralympics this summer, has over 500 confirmed cases and nine deaths due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

- Business bailout

Abe’s government also approved a 1 trillion yen ($9.6 billion) emergency package to help embattled businesses.

The bailout includes zero-interest loans for small and medium companies that are short of cash due to decreased sales caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

The Japanese government will also give 4,100 yen ($39) to freelance workers who are forced to stay home owing to the closure of schools.

Several auto-sector companies in Japan have closed down their plants due to a sharp fall in sales.

Last week, Lockheed Martin also halted production of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft at a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries factory in Japan.

The global death toll from the coronavirus is now over 4,000, with nearly 114,000 confirmed cases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The virus originated in China but has reached over 100 countries, with the WHO saying on Monday that the “threat of a pandemic has become very real”.

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