National

Japan likely to extend state of emergency after Golden Week

JIJI

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his team are likely to extend the state of emergency for the coronavirus in prefectures still struggling to curb the pandemic, sources said Friday.

The emergency declaration was set to expire on May 6, when the Golden Week holidays officially end.

“The common view of experts is that it is too early for lifting the declaration,” a government source said.

“An extension will be unavoidable,” a senior official said.

At a meeting of the government’s coronavirus headquarters at the Prime Minister’s Office on Friday, Abe again called on citizens to refrain from going out and to cooperate on reducing personal interaction by 80 percent during the normally busy holiday period, which for many will begin on Wednesday.

Abe is expected to make a decision on whether to lift the state of emergency based on infection levels logged during Golden Week.

“It is now an extremely important period for bringing the state of emergency to a swift close,” Abe said at the meeting. “We’ll speed up efforts to reduce interactions by 80 percent,” he said, hinting that businesses defying the government’s nonbinding requests to close might be named and shamed.

At a news conference the same day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga refrained from commenting on whether the state of emergency will be extended.

“The situation is changing by the minute,” he said. “We’ll decide whether to extend it beyond May 6 after hearing from experts.”

When the government issued the emergency declaration on April 7, it initially covered Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba, Osaka, Hyogo and Fukuoka. It was expanded on April 16 to include all 47 prefectures, with 13 designated as requiring “special vigilance.”

“It will be necessary to handle the 13 prefectures separately from the other prefectures,” another senior official said.

At the meeting, Abe said the government would provide 15 million surgical masks, 1.5 million high-performance masks, 1.3 million medical gowns and 1.9 million face shields to medical institutions across the country by the end of the month.

The novel coronavirus reportedly has an incubation period of five to 14 days.

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