Abe to take tougher action against COVID-19 if cases increase

Tokyo, Apr 1 (efe-epa).- Japan’s prime minister said Wednesday he will take stricter measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus epidemic in the country if infections continue, but for now ruled out declaring a state of emergency.

During his speech in a Parliament session, in which the novel coronavirus epidemic in Japanese territory was scrutinized, conservative leader Shinzo Abe said that if infections continue to rise, the government would take tougher action.

However, Abe ruled out a state of emergency, which would give the central and regional governments more powers to contain the spread of the virus.

The health and safety of citizens was the priority, he said, adding that next week he will hold a new meeting with a panel of medical experts.

Opposition voices, medical experts and some local governments have called for the prompt application of the emergency law, which among other things would allow authorities to restrict citizens’ freedom of movement, given the continued spread of the virus in Japan.

In the country, 2,235 infections of the new coronavirus have been registered so far, as well as more than 700 from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, according to the most recent data from the authorities.

An increase in cases has been detected in the Tokyo Metropolitan Area in recent days, which added 78 new infections the day before and accounts for more than a quarter of all cases in Japan.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has called on residents of the capital to stay at home and to avoid crowds, and has pointed to the possibility of putting the city in isolation if necessary.

The Japanese government is also “closely analyzing” the impact that the pandemic is having on the national economy, Abe said Wednesday.

The Bank of Japan on Wednesday published its quarterly report, which showed a further drop in business confidence in March compared to December, representing its fifth consecutive quarterly decline.

It is the biggest drop in the indicator since the 2008 global financial crisis, as well as the first time that the confidence of large companies has been at a negative level (-8 points) since 2013.

Meanwhile, Japanese firm Subaru announced Wednesday the suspension of vehicle production in its two factories in Gunma prefecture, north of Tokyo and another in Lafayette, Indiana, United States.

Subaru reported that this suspension in its operations is linked to disruptions in the supply chain and in order to adjust production volumes in the face of rapidly declining demand worldwide due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Similar decisions have been made by other giants in Japan’s automotive sector, such as Toyota, Nissan and Honda. EFE-EPA


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