Nagoya – Aichi Prefecture has asked the central government to add it to regions placed under a state of emergency amid the spread of the new coronavirus, Gov. Hideaki Omura said Thursday.
The prefecture, home to a number of major Japanese companies including Toyota Motor Corp., will also declare its own state of emergency Friday afternoon and request people to refrain from making nonessential outings following a rise in the number of people infected with the pneumonia-causing virus, he said.
The move came after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday declared a state of emergency for Tokyo, Osaka and five other prefectures through May 6.
“Looking at the past week, there is no doubt we are in a very serious situation,” Omura said at a news conference at the prefectural government.
The number of confirmed cases of the virus has eclipsed 270 in the prefecture, with 20 newly reported Wednesday.
While the prefectural total was sharply lower than Tokyo at 1,338 and Osaka’s 524, Aichi placed higher than Hyogo, Saitama and Fukuoka, all covered by Abe’s state of emergency declaration.
Noting the prefecture contains Nagoya, its capital with a population of over 2.2 million, and is located between Tokyo and Osaka, Omura said it would be preferable to declare a state of emergency on both the prefecture and state levels.
While the prefecture’s emergency situation does not have a legal basis, unlike the central government’s declaration, Omura said he will request residents to avoid going out for nonessential reasons and for schools to shut until May 6.
Omura was initially reluctant to ask the state to put the prefecture under the state of emergency, but Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura urged him to do so, saying the situation was “very dangerous.” Similar voices from prefectural assembly members also seemed to have pushed Omura to make the request.
In response to Omura’s call, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Thursday the government must seek the opinions of experts before making a decision.
But a senior government official indicated the central government will add Aichi to the list of prefectures subject to the state of emergency. “The governor’s request should be taken seriously,” the official said.
Under the state of emergency, people will be called on to voluntarily refrain from nonessential outings, excluding grocery shopping, visits to the hospital and commuting.
There are no legal penalties for flouting the call and business activities cannot be banned.
But governors can expropriate private land and buildings for use in fighting the virus, requisition medical supplies and food from companies that refuse to sell them and punish those that hoard or do not comply. They can also force firms to help transport emergency goods.
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