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People's Daily Online

Japan passes bill enabling Abe to declare state of emergency to combat COVID-19 outbreak

People's Daily Online

(Xinhua) 08:50, March 14, 2020

TOKYO, March 13 (Xinhua) -- Japan on Friday passed a special bill enabling Prime Minster Shinzo Abe to declare a state of emergency if necessary to bolster measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 as the number of infections continue to rise nationwide.

To better combat the COVID-19 outbreak, the special bill was passed by the House of Councillors, after clearing the House of Representatives a day earlier and gaining Cabinet approval prior to that.

The newly amended law, which will be valid until February 2022, is a revision of an existing law on novel influenza that came into force in 2013 and has been made applicable to the government's ongoing efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Under the amended law, the government has extended powers once a state of emergency has been declared by Abe in particular parts of the country.

Such powers include regional governments being authorized to instruct local people to stay at home, issue closures to schools and restrict the use of locations that facilitate large groups of people gathering together or cancel large scale events all together.

Local governments will also have the authority to demand that supplies deemed essential to combating the spread of COVID-19 be sold to them or requisitioned, and regional authorities will also be able to temporarily commandeer private land or facilities for the purposes of providing medical care.

Previously, the prime minister did not have the legal grounds to forcibly close schools or cancel events, although Abe had requested such measures to be taken in a bid to try and contain the virus.

The number of coronavirus infections in Japan increased to 684 as of 15:00 p.m. local time on Friday, with eight more cases being reported earlier in the day, the health ministry and local governments said.

A total of 26 people have died from the disease, with Hokkaido Prefecture in northern Japan reporting the highest number of COVID-19 infections at 136 cases. Osaka Prefecture has 89 confirmed cases and Tokyo 75, according to the latest information from the health ministry and local authorities.

While the Japanese government has conceded that "clusters" of infections have appeared in some parts of the country, a government panel of medical experts has said that an "explosion" of cases has been prevented.

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