Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday declared a state of emergency in several regions of the country, a move that expands the powers of the local authorities in containing the spread of COVID-19.
Abe made the declaration in a meeting in Tokyo with a government group specially appointed to handle the health crisis and after securing the approval of Parliament, reports Efe news.
The state of emergency came into effect on Tuesday in the Tokyo metropolitan area and six other prefectures – Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba, Osaka, Hyogo, Fukuoka – and will end on May 6.
It will allow authorities of the prefectures to impose a series of restrictions on citizens and companies to curb the increase in coronavirus infections.
In his address during the meeting broadcast by local TV channels, Abe asked citizens to avoid stepping out of their homes as far as possible until the end of the state of emergency to protect the lives and health of the Japanese people.
The Prime Minister, who, like the others present at the meeting, sported a face mask, requested the Japanese for all possible cooperation to prevent a drastic increase in the number of infections.
The state of emergency allows governments of Tokyo and the six other prefectures to order the closure of schools, commercial establishments, entertainment spaces, and sports and cultural event venues.
This measure, however, is far from more drastic measures imposed in other countries, such as Spain or Italy, where the entire population has been confined with sanctions for those who do not comply.
Abe said it was important for each citizen to change their actions and added that economic and social services could remain operational as long as gatherings were avoided.
This is the first time in Japan's history that the measure has been applied.
The development comes as Japan has recorded 3,906 coronavirus cases, with 92 deaths..