National / Science & Health

Tokyo plans ¥800 billion emergency COVID-19 spending measure

by Kazuaki Nagata

STAFF WRITER

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said Wednesday the nation's capital will prepare an ¥800 billion emergency spending package in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The relief package will be "far bigger than" those compiled after both the 2008 Lehman shock during the global financial crisis and the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that ravaged a large portion of the country, the governor said during a news conference at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government office.

The Tokyo government plans to submit a ¥357 billion supplementary budget bill to an emergency assembly session from Friday and to draft additional measures later.

If passed, Tokyo will spend ¥145.5 billion in the effort to stop the spread of the virus, including offering financial aid of ¥500,000 to ¥1 million for small businesses, such as restaurants, that have adhered to the city's request to voluntarily curtail or halt their operations. It will also provide medical institutions and schools with supplies, such as face masks, alcohol sanitizers and thermometers.

Koike also said Tokyo will create a counseling center that provides assistance in 14 languages for foreign nationals in Tokyo facing troubles or who have concerns in relation to the virus.

In addition, the metropolitan government will earmark about ¥200 billion in zero-interst loans for small and midsized firms to help sustain and promote economic activity. The measure, for example, would help restaurants that want to strengthen their takeout and delivery operations.

The number of infections in the city have rapidly increased in the past couple of weeks. On Wednesday, 127 new cases of COVID-19 and six deaths were reported in Tokyo, according to the metropolitan government.

The capital has now confirmed a total of more than 2,400 cases of the new coronavirus and 53 deaths.

Tokyo has also been struggling to pinpoint infection routes. The metropolitan government said on Tuesday that it could not identify the transmission routes of 105 infections among 161 new cases reported on the day.

It will still likely take another week or so to see whether the declaration of a state of emergency for Tokyo and six other prefectures by the central government is helping slow down the spread of the virus.

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