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[Coronavirus] Japan announces state of emergency amid coronavirus crisis

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Japan is poised to announce a state of emergency in Tokyo and six other regions as the country’s coronavirus crisis escalates.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the measures will be announced in detail Tuesday and will include increased social distancing but stop short of hard lockdowns of the kind in place in Europe.

Abe also said the government is preparing a $990billion stimulus package to help the country’s economy through the crisis, including cash payouts to households.

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Japan was one of the first countries to be hit by coronavirus outside of China but reported few new cases and deaths until recent weeks, when both began spiking.

Abe said experts on a government-commissioned task force urged him to prepare to declare a state of emergency, which will cover Tokyo, neighbouring Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama prefectures, the western hub of Osaka and neighbouring Hyogo, as well as the southwestern region of Fukuoka.

Tokyo has been hardest-hit by the surge in cases, with hospitals there saying they are already overburdened by the sudden surge.

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Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said the city will start transferring patients with no or slight symptoms from hospitals to hotels and other accommodations to make room for an influx of patients with severe symptoms.

Japan’s health ministry has confirmed 3,654 cases of the coronavirus, including 84 deaths from the disease.

That figure does not include another 712 infections and 11 fatalities on the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined in the port of Yokohama near Tokyo earlier this year.

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The state of emergency will empower governors in affected regions to call for restrictions on movement and commerce but offers little in the way of enforcement.

Governors can ask people to stay inside – something Tokyo’s governor has effectively already done by asking people to limit unnecessary outings and work from home.

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