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This week’s featured article

KYODO

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has decided to declare a nationwide state of emergency in an attempt to prevent the further spread of the new coronavirus, a government official said Thursday.

The government had been considering expanding of the state of emergency, currently covering Tokyo, Osaka and five prefectures, to also include Kyoto, Aichi and Hokkaido. But instead it will likely be extended nationwide due to a rise in infections in other parts of Japan.

The declaration, based on a revised law enacted last month, has given the governors of the seven prefectures the power to call for schools and some businesses to close until the Golden Week holidays end on May 6.

Also on Thursday, Abe approved a reworking of a state budget to fund measures aimed at helping citizens and businesses weather the economic fallout from the coronavirus crisis, moving the government closer to delivering a ¥100,000 handout to all citizens regardless of their income levels, government sources said.

Abe, who had questioned the effectiveness of a blanket cash distribution plan, pulled an about-face after facing pressure from Komeito, the junior coalition partner of his Liberal Democratic Party, which floated the idea to help support struggling households.

Economists are saying Japan has entered a recession as stay-at-home requests by local authorities and business suspensions are dealing a blow to an economy already hurt by the 2 percentage point consumption tax hike in October last year.

Abe is reversing a government decision to seek the Diet approval next week for a supplementary budget for fiscal 2020 from April — a requisite for launching a program to give ¥300,000 to households whose income is deemed to have fallen sharply due to the virus outbreak.

The global coronavirus pandemic has raised calls for economic stimulus, but Japan is cautious about taking on new debt to finance bold spending measures as its fiscal health is the worst among all developed nations, with its debt standing at twice the size of its annual gross domestic product.

Japan now has over 9,000 confirmed coronavirus infections, including about 700 from the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined in Yokohama in the early stages of the outbreak in Japan.

The idea of expanding the scope of the emergency declaration comes as the nation faces a continued rise in infections.

According to the task force’s simulation, 850,000 people could become seriously sick with COVID-19 if countermeasures are not taken.

The government is aiming for a reduction of at least 70 percent of human-to-human contact. Nishiura has called for an 80 percent cut to ensure new infections level off in one month.

Article first published in the Japan Times on April 16.

Warm up

One minute chat about your life amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Game

Collect words related to the government:

e.g., legislation, Prime Minister, country, policy, etc.

New words

1) handout: state financial aid, for the public or businesses, e.g., “Government handouts can be necessary in times of economic trouble.”

2) coalition: alliance of two (or more) normally opposing parties, e.g., “The two parties formed a coalition as a result of the election.”

3) fiscal: related to government revenue, e.g., “Fiscal policies were discussed in the budget meeting.”

Guess the headline

Japan to declare n_ _ _ _ _ wide state of em_ _ _ _ _ _ _ as virus spreads

Questions

1) What does the state of emergency allow governors to now do?

2) Aside from COVID-19, what else is mentioned as hurting businesses?

3) What is the government aiming to do by proclaiming a state of emergency?

Let’s discuss the article

1) What do you think about the declaration?

2) Do you feel that your everyday life has been altered significantly?

3) How do you want the state to tackle COVID-19?

Reference

緊急事態宣言が出るような事態にまで発展するのかどうかという議論がなされていましたが、結果として日本全体に緊急事態宣言が拡大される春になってしまいました。これを受けて緊張感の高まる街、そこまでの影響を感じられない街、不安になる人や生活環境に深刻な影響のない人など様々でしょうが、一刻も早く元の日常を取り戻したいという願いは誰しもに共通する思いでしょう。

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