As Japan has reported more than 7,300 coronavirus cases so far, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike criticised Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ‘sluggish’ response towards the pandemic. Abe declared a state of emergency last week even though the country saw a sharp rise from late March. Koike has been reportedly delivering a tough message to the Japanese capital's residents and shops to stay home and shut down shops to avert an explosive outbreak of the deadly virus.
The 67-year-old, who is Abe’s longtime rival, has also been pushing other governors to call on business to close despite the central government’s urging them to wait. Meanwhile, Abe’s government has been reluctant to push for broad business closures for fear of further damage to the economy, which was already on the verge of recession before the outbreak. Japanese PM’s move to declare a state of emergency was also reportedly criticised as no penalties for non-compliance was ordered.
Several Tokyo residents have also supported Koike and criticised Abe’s response. While speaking to an international media outlet, a Tokyo resident said that Koike is right and people should support her. A political science professor at Tokyo’s Sophia University also reportedly said that the national government is ‘incompetent’. The professor added that it is rare for governors to resist the national government and it shows how it is ‘mistrusted’ during unprecedented times.
Meanwhile, Japan’s government on April 13 said that there wasn’t any reason for it to extend the state of emergency beyond Tokyo and a few other cities in the country. "So far we have not been informed of any expert evidence suggesting that the state of emergency should be extended to Hokkaido or other regions", chief government spokesman Yoshinde Suga said at a press briefing. The state of emergency if until May 6 and only permits Koike and heads of the six other prefectures to do more reinforcement calls for social distancing.
The state of emergency includes a stay-at-home request, guidance to schools on temporary closures and requests to close nonessential businesses and stores and to cancel or postpone events and exhibits. According to reports, violators cannot be penalized unless they fail to comply with orders on providing or storing emergency relief goods, such as surgical masks and medical equipment. Still, the state of emergency could significantly limit the movement of people around and out of the cities across Japan.