Asia Minute: Japan Extends State of Emergency

May 5, 2020

Across the country and around the world, leaders of states and countries are making decisions about whether and how far to re-open. This week, the leader of one of the largest economies in the Asia Pacific announced his latest approach to fighting the pandemic.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has extended a nationwide state of emergency through the end of this month. But in a Monday news conference, Abe also promised to ease some restrictions in a phased approach, and said he’d be open to adjusting his order based on developments.

Japan faces a mixed picture when it comes to COVID-19. Abe says new cases are falling, but the number of patients in critical condition requiring a ventilator has tripled over the last month. The country has reported more than 15,000 cases of COVID-19, and more than 500 deaths.

But testing has still not been widespread.

While restrictions remain in place in the country’s most populated regions, in some places they will be gradually eased.

Abe declared a state of emergency in seven prefectures four weeks ago, and extended it nationwide on April 16th. The steps are technically voluntary, there are no enforcement provisions, but the prime minister said many have been following them.

Other parts of life in Japan have changed. On Monday, the Japan Sumo Association announced it would cancel the summer tournament – scheduled to start in about three weeks. The spring tournament was held in March – broadcast nationally, but with no spectators in attendance.

Sumo officials say that’s now the plan for the July tournament as well.