Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is apparently leaning towards extending the state of emergency imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic for another month.
The 30-day decree imposed by Abe on April 7, which covered Tokyo and six other prefectures, will expire next week at the end of the country’s Golden Week holidays. Japan has reported 14,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 infections with 415 deaths, a situation that has overwhelmed the country’s health care system, hobbled its economy and forced it to postpone the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games for a year.
Abe told lawmakers Wednesday that he will consult infectious disease experts about the situation before making a final decision. Government sources say the prime minister will meet with the experts on Friday.
The current emergency declaration gives local authorities the legal power to call on citizens to stay at home and to ask schools and businesses to close but stops short of imposing a legally binding nationwide lockdown. Japan’s post-World War II constitution, which weighs heavily in favor of civil liberties, does not empower the government to impose a mandatory quarantine.
Abe’s government has been criticized for its slow response to the outbreak and its failure to set up an aggressive testing program.