Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, sought plans to lift its month-longa imposition of emergency lockdown across the country but the state of emergency would remain in force in the capital city, Tokyo until there is an improvement in the coronavirus crisis.
The country had declared a nationwide state of emergency a month ago, taking preventive measures in an effort to reduce and slow the spread of the widely contagious virus outbreak.
Japan Plans on Lockdown Exit
A cabinet meeting led by Japan’s Prime Minister (PM), Shinzo Abe was supposed to take place at 6 p.m., (0900 GMT) on Thursday, May 14, 2020, to discuss the main issue of the country’s lockdown exit. Analysts expected that the Abe government would lift the emergency in 39 of Japan’s 47 provinces except for Tokyo since it has more virus-infected cases.
Abe has been under pressure since he tries to strike a balance between his desire to open up the economy from prolonged shutdowns and containing the virus spread at the same time. Despite it was likely to announce for lifting lockdown, economists warned that it would be a gradual process to return the economy to normal and the government was wary on the possibility of a second wave of infections as seen in countries such as South Korea and China.
Atsushi Takeda, the chief economist at Itochu Research Institute, noted, “The focus is whether the government will lift the emergency in the big areas such as Tokyo and Osaka before the end of May, as was initially planned,” adding that “If it does, economic recovery will likely be faster than previously estimated.”
Tokyo’s Lockdown Still in Force
Analysts earlier expected that the emergency exit plan would also exclude Osaka, Japan’s second-largest metropolis from the relaxation like Tokyo, but Osaka’s governor has announced to gradually lift restraints on some businesses including restaurants and bars. Meanwhile, the 39 provinces, in which the emergency is expected to be lifted, accounted for 54% of Japan’s population.
The greater Tokyo area, where the emergency is expected to remain in force, represents about a third of the economy, and continuing emergency in the capital city would still be an impediment for boosting the Japanese economy. Jesper Koll, the chief executive of asset manager WisdomTree Japan, asserted, “Tokyo is the heart of the Japanese economy. It’s like driving a car with three wheels.”
Meanwhile, Japan has reported 16,100 cases of the coronavirus, which excluded counting of infections on a cruise ship that was quarantined in Yokohama port, and 696 deaths, according to public broadcaster NHK.
Japan’s epicenter of the virus pandemic, Tokyo has conducted just 50,000 tests, and of which, the government authority reported, about 5,000 were positive. This week, the government reported a 20% decline in the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the nine days, and in Tokyo, new cases fell to just 10 on Wednesday.
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