Japan coronavirus task force may set stage for state of emergency

The government will set up a special task force to combat the spread of the coronavirus as early as Thursday, clearing an important prerequisite toward declaring a state of emergency.

The decision reflects a recent surge of COVID-19 patients, particularly in the nation’s capital. Tokyo on Wednesday reported 41 new cases, its biggest one-day jump so far.

Establishing the special task force is based on the coronavirus special measures law passed earlier this month. Health minister Katsunobu Kato said he had shared with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe an assessment made by experts from a government panel on infectious diseases that there is a high risk of the novel coronavirus being “widespread” in Japan.

In response, the prime minister ordered economic policy minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who is in charge of the government’s coronavirus measures, to create a special task force.

“I’m going to establish a special government task force as soon as possible, perhaps by the end of today,” Nishimura said, adding that the government is not thinking about declaring a state of emergency “at this point.”

If Abe declares a state of emergency, governors would have the authority to implement restrictive measures such as requesting that residents to stay inside. Governors would also be allowed to temporarily close down public facilities.

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