Japan declaring weeks-long state of emergency

 Japan declaring weeks-long state of emergency
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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced on Monday that the country was preparing to issue a state of emergency to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus as the number of confirmed cases continued to increase in cities like Tokyo. 

The order, which could go into effect as early as Tuesday, will allow governors to direct businesses to close and people to remain home, Abe said, according to Reuters. The order is not a formal lockdown and people will not be subject to fines if they disobey the directives, however. 

“Given the state of crisis on the medical front, the government was advised to prepare to declare the state of emergency,” Abe said, noting that the order would be used to reinforce necessary social-distancing requirements. 

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Japan has reported more than 3,600 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, and 85 deaths caused by it, according to a Johns Hopkins University database. While the numbers pale in comparison to tallies in countries like China and the U.S., fears have escalated about a sudden outbreak overwhelming the capacity of Japan's health care system.

Abe had initially voiced skepticism about the need for an emergency order out of concern over how a halt to movement and businesses would impact the economy. He said that the government would move forward with a stimulus package worth 108 trillion yen, or $990 billion, as part of an effort to help businesses and workers affected by business closures, Reuters noted. 

The package includes cash payouts to individuals and small businesses, as well as 26 trillion yen for deferred social security and tax payments. 

Abe, who must receive formal advice from an expert panel before proceeding with the measure, reportedly said that the emergency would last about a month.