Japan lifts emergency in most prefectures but not in Tokyo, Osaka

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TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lifted a state of emergency in large parts of the country yesterday but said it would remain in place in Tokyo and Osaka until the coronavirus is contained.

Mr Abe lifted the emergency in 39 of Japan's 47 prefectures, but left it in force in the capital and in the second-largest urban area as he tries to cushion the economic blow while stopping the virus.

Mr Abe said he would begin work on a second extra budget, and as part of the economic stimulus, the government would take more steps to ease corporate funding strains, if needed.

"While controlling the spread of the virus as much as possible by acting on the premise that the virus is all around us, we will restore ordinary work and daily life," Mr Abe said.

The world's third-largest economy declared the nationwide state of emergency a month ago, urging citizens to reduce person-to-person contact by 80 per cent to slow the spread of the virus and ease pressure on medical services.


Economists said normalisation would be gradual as the government keeps a wary eye on the possibility of a second wave of infections, as seen in countries such as South Korea and China.

The emergency gives governors more authority to tell people to stay at home and to close schools and businesses, but there is no penalty for non-compliance.

Some non-essential businesses, even in areas hit hard by the coronavirus, had started to reopen even before yesterday's announcement, and the scope of restrictions has varied across the country.

The 39 prefectures in which the emergency has been lifted account for 54 per cent of Japan's population, but the greater Tokyo area accounts for a third of the economy.

"Tokyo is the heart of the Japanese economy. It's like driving a car with three wheels," said Mr Jesper Koll, chief executive of asset manager WisdomTree Japan.

Japan has reported 16,120 cases of the coronavirus, not counting infections on a cruise ship that was quarantined at Yokohama port, and 697 deaths.

While Japan has avoided the kind of explosive outbreaks seen in the United States and elsewhere, its testing has also been among the lowest, at 188 polymerase chain reaction tests per 100,000 people, compared with 3,159 in Italy and 3,044 in Germany. - REUTERS