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Japan preparing to extend virus emergency

Japan is preparing to extend its state of emergency over the novel coronavirus, originally set to end on May 6, for about a month, government sources have told Reuters, even as some other countries begin to reopen after strict lockdowns.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told parliament he would consult infectious disease experts on whether to extend the emergency, which he declared on April 7 for seven prefectures including Tokyo.

The state of emergency gives local governors greater power to tell people to stay at home and ask businesses to close but it does not mandate penalties in most cases for non-compliance, relaying instead on social pressure and respect for authority.

With the emergency declaration set to conclude at the end of Golden Week holidays, there remain worrying signs that Japan’s low testing regime has undercounted many coronavirus cases.

At the same time, data showing consumer confidence at a record low along with slumps in factory output and retail sales illustrated the economic damage from the virus.

“We would like to consult experts’ analysts and views,” Abe said in parliament, referring to a possible extension of the emergency.

He said he wanted to make a decision before the last minute.

Japan has had more than 14,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 436 deaths, according to public broadcaster NHK, still far lower figures seen in the United States and Europe.

Of the confirmed cases, more than 4,000 were in Tokyo, with 46 new cases on Thursday, media reported.

A study using antibody tests among people in the Shinjuku ward of Tokyo indicated nearly six per cent of people had been exposed to the virus, the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper reported, echoing a similar study of patients at Keio University Hospital.

Originally published as Japan preparing to extend virus emergency

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