Abe to declare state of emergency as COVID-19 cases surge

 Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

Tokyo, (Asian independent) Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is planning to declare a state of emergency in the country due to the recent surge in the number of COVID-19 cases in Tokyo and other major cities, government sources said on Monday.

Pressure had been mounting on Abe to make the declaration amid a surge in COVID-19 cases recently, with calls for the move from Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike and the Japan Medical Association intensifying, reports Xinhua news agency.

The Tokyo metropolitan government along with healthcare specialists said the number of hospital beds available for coronavirus patients will soon reach capacity, with the health ministry rapidly trying to secure more.

A panel of government experts warned recently that the country’s healthcare system could collapse if coronavirus cases here continue to spike.

The healthcare system in Tokyo and four other prefectures is under increased strain and “drastic countermeasures need to be taken as quickly as possible”, the experts concluded.

Prior to a state of emergency being declared over the virus, Abe will have to seek the opinions from an advisory panel comprised of medical experts, and the level of emergency will have to meet specific criteria.

If a state of emergency was declared by Abe, the government would have extended powers to instruct people to stay at home on a regional or national basis, issue closures to schools, and restrict the use of locations for mass gatherings.

The government would also have the authority to demand that supplies deemed essential to combating the spread of the virus be sold to them or requisitioned, and be able to temporarily commandeer private land or facilities for the purposes of providing medical care.

As of Sunday, 143 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded in Tokyo, a record daily high for the capital, bringing the total to 1,034, with Japan’s health ministry and local governments adding that nationwide cases had risen to 3,531 as of Sunday afternoon.