Japan will likely extend the nationwide state of emergency until the end of May at the earliest as the nation continues to grapple with containing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the government sources on Thursday.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reportedly told Toshihiro Nikai, secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), that he was almost certainly going to extend the state of emergency past May 6.
“Returning to normalcy from May 7 is difficult and we need to brace for a protracted battle against the virus,” Abe told media.
“I will consult with experts as to the length of an extension,” he added.
Government sources further added that such consultations could happen as early as Friday, with a final decision being made by Abe at some point thereafter as to the duration of the extension once he has heard an expert panels’ assessment as to the pneumonia-carrying virus’ spread across Japan and other pertinent details related to the pandemic.
The final decision may come on May 4, the sources said.
On Wednesday, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike called for an extension of Japan’s nationwide state of emergency, which requests people to stay home and social distance, to stem the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.
On April 16, Japan Prime Minster Shinzo Abe decided to expand the state of emergency from just seven of the country’s 47 prefectures, to the whole nation.
The declaration hands regional governors the power to ask residents to stay inside, seek the closure of businesses that attract large crowds and commandeer land and buildings for medical purposes.
Coronavirus cases in Japan increased by 188 to 14,305, according to the most recent figures from the health ministry and local authorities released late Thursday evening.
The figures included 46 new infections in Tokyo and 28 in Japan’s northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido.
The nationwide death toll from the virus has now increased to 468, including those from a cruise ship that was quarantined in Yokohama near Tokyo.
A nationwide state of emergency being issued would ensure that prefectural governors, across-the board, would be better enabled to authorize measures against the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the novel coronavirus has infected over 3 million people globally and led to over 2 lakh deaths.