• Kyodo, JIJI, staff report


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expanded a state of emergency to cover the whole country on Thursday in an attempt to prevent the further spread of the new coronavirus, a government official said Thursday.

The prime minister declared the broader state of emergency during an evening meeting of the government task force dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic held at the Prime Minister’s Office.

With Japan seeing a rising number of infected cases in recent weeks, especially in Tokyo, the government is now apparently finding that efforts to contain the virus need to be on a nationwide level.

The move is also aimed at preventing a mass of people from traveling during the Golden Week holiday season from late this month to May 6, which is designated as the last day of the current state of emergency.

The government had been considering widening the state of emergency that was covering Tokyo, Osaka and five prefectures, to Kyoto, Aichi and Hokkaido.

On Thursday, the coronavirus infection cases reported so far in Japan exceeded 9,000 on Thursday with more than new 300 infection cases recorded across the country the same day, including 149 in Tokyo.

The expansion may be a relief for some prefectures, including Aichi and Kyoto, that have urged the central government to cover them.

But some other governors of prefectures that have not seen a spike of infected cases seemed bewildered.

“Infections in our prefecture has been kept at a certain level. We are going to have to change what we have asked our people. I don’t understand this,” said Hideyo Hanamizu, the governor of Niigata Prefecture that has seen a total of 47 infected cases.

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