Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has decided to declare a coronavirus emergency, according to the Nikkei, as new cases in the capital surged at a record pace. And while the Japanese publication notes that the government will hold an unofficial meeting of a panel of experts and start preparing for the declaration, Kyodo reported moments ago that Japan will declare a state of emergency on April 7, which would take effect on April 8.
An emergency declaration gives governors in the areas covered formal powers, such as issuing requests that people stay home; Tokyo and surrounding areas, as well as Osaka, are expected to be affected by the declaration.
Abe has been criticized for not having already declared an emergency - a hesitance thought by many to stem from a strong desire to hold the Olympics this summer in Tokyo as originally planned. The International Olympic Committee decided in late March to postpone the games to 2021 after consulting with the prime minister and others.
And yet, a conflict is set to emerge almost instantly because Japan's constitution does not permit the government to demand that individuals stay home, owing to civil liberties concerns. Is Japan - which already buys billions in stocks just to avoid a market crash and preserve social order - about to also have a constituational crisis?
In any case, we find it strange that there were almost "no cases" in the weeks leading up to Japan's reluctant decision to postpone this year's Olympics, only to see a sudden record surge afterwards as Japan's cases "mysteriously" soared, demonstrating once again that the coronavirus - or rather the tracking of its case and death toll - is first and foremost a political priority.
Abe met with parties including Health Minister Katsunobu Kato and Yasutoshi Nishimura, the economic and fiscal policy minister, on Sunday to discuss the spread of infections.
"If necessary, we will decide [to declare an emergency] without hesitation," said Nishimura, who heads the government's coronavirus response, on a show of public broadcaster NHK on Sunday. "We are looking for signs of an overshoot," he said, referring to an explosion in cases, and noted that the atmosphere has grown extremely tense. On the same program, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike called on the central government to issue an emergency declaration promptly.