A legal change this week will allow Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to declare a state of emergency to address the new coronavirus outbreak if he deems it necessary.
To seek cross-party cooperation, Abe in a rare move met separately with five opposition leaders to ask for support for the legal change needed for him to declare a state of emergency.
Once declared, prefectural governors can instruct residents to stay indoors and ask for the cancellation of sports and entertainment events. They can also demand that medicine and other necessary goods be sold at lower prices or handed over, while urging train and logistic companies to transport medicine.
Given the suppression of individual rights that a state of emergency would entail, there are calls being made — even within the ruling bloc — to draft clear criteria for triggering such a declaration. The law states that there must be an emergence of nationwide and rapid infections that are feared to have a serious impact on people’s lives and the economy.
“Any emergency declaration would raise public worries and we may see the sort of panic buying that we saw recently,” Iwasaki said. “The impact on ordinary people needs to be carefully weighed. Most of all, what Japan does will be closely watched before the Tokyo Games.”