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Japan declares emergency, $1tn stimulus

Published : Wednesday, 8 April, 2020 at 12:00 AM  Count : 166

TOKYO, Apr 7: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday declared a state of emergency to fight coronavirus infections in major population centres and rolled out a nearly $1 trillion stimulus package to soften the economic blow.
The state of emergency, giving authorities more power to press people to stay at home and businesses to close, will last a month and be imposed in the capital, Tokyo, and six other prefectures, accounting for about 44% of Japan's population.
"It is no exaggeration to say that Japan's economy, and the world economy, is facing the biggest crisis since postwar right now. We will protect the employment and life at all costs," Abe told a news conference.
Major department stores such as Isetan Mitsukoshi announced store closures, while restaurants and bars around Tokyo - many of which were still operating earlier this week - prepared to close.
Abe said that by reducing contact between people by 70% to 80%, the government hoped infections would peak in two weeks.
The government approved the stimulus package, worth 108 trillion yen ($990 billion). That is equal to 20% of Japan's economic output, more than the 11% of U.S. output for President Donald Trump's stimulus package and the 5% of output for Germany's package.
Direct fiscal spending will be 39.5 trillion yen, more than double the amount Japan spent following the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers.
Japan has been spared big outbreaks of the coronavirus, but a recent, steady rise in infections in Tokyo, Osaka and other areas led to growing calls for Abe to announce a state of emergency.
Coronavirus infections in Tokyo doubled to about 1,200 in the past five days, with more than 80 new cases reported on Tuesday, accounting for more than a quarter of cases in the country. That has led some critics to say the government's declaration was too little, too late.
Abe cited experts' view that at this pace, the tally could jump to 10,000 in two weeks and to 80,000 in a month.
"Clearly, we are approaching the limit in terms of hospital beds," he said.
The latest declaration of emergency gives governors the authority to call on people to stay at home and businesses to close. But with no penalties for ignoring the requests in most cases, enforcement will rely more on peer pressure and respect for authority.     -REUTERS















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