Japan’s economy fell into recession for the first time since 2015 as the coronavirus pandemic brought economic activity at home and abroad to a screeching halt.
Figures released Monday by the Cabinet Office show Japan’s gross domestic product shrank by an annual 3.4% in the first three months of 2020, following a contraction in the last quarter of 2019, putting the country in a technical recession with two consecutive quarters of contraction.
The COVID-19 outbreak aggravated an already challenging situation for the world’s third-largest economy, which was dealing with the impact of a sales tax hike and a powerful typhoon. The pandemic led to official quarantines across the globe as governments tried to blunt the spread of the virus.
Japan has been mildly affected by the coronavirus compared to the rest of the world, with more than 16,000 confirmed infections, including over 700 deaths. But Prime Minister Shinzo Abe imposed a state of emergency for Tokyo and six other prefectures last month out of fear the outbreak would overwhelm Japan’s healthcare system, then briefly expanded it for the entire country.
The government has announced a $990-billion stimulus bill to blunt the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, including $55 billion in direct payments to households and small businesses.