Japanese government doubts effectiveness of any emergency declaration

Japan Times -- Jan 03
Although Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike and her counterparts of three neighboring prefectures have requested an emergency declaration by the state over the coronavirus epidemic, the central government remains skeptical about whether a declaration would effectively curb the spread of the contagion.

The government is eager to prioritize the planned revision to the special measures law for tackling the pandemic in order to enhance the effectiveness of infection prevention measures, according to informed sources. The law revision, which the government hopes to enact by the end of the month, is likely to be aimed at introducing penalties on businesses that fail to follow authorities’ requests to shorten operating hours.

“The government’s decision to declare a state of emergency, if any, will come after the effectiveness of related measures is ensured under the revised law,” an official close to Suga said.

Following a meeting with the four governors Saturday, economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who is leading the government’s coronavirus response, said the government “will consider the request” for an emergency declaration. But at the same time, the minister indicated the government’s position that it would carefully judge whether to make the declaration after hearing the opinions of experts at a meeting of a government subcommittee on the coronavirus response that will be held shortly.

The governors made the request for an emergency declaration as the COVID-19 outbreak in the Tokyo metropolitan area is showing no sign of abating. The declaration, based on the special measures law, would give prefectural authorities the power to take stronger measures, including issuing business suspension requests.

Since the beginning of a third wave of infections in the country, the government has been cautious about declaring a state of emergency, as the step would stop social and economic activities and have an impact on economic recovery.

In an example of the government’s cautious stance, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga stressed during a Dec. 25 news conference that people can change their behavior without an emergency declaration.

- Japan Times