TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday declared a state of emergency in several regions of the country, a move that expands the powers of the local authorities in containing the spread of COVID-19.
Abe made the declaration during a meeting in Tokyo with a government group specially appointed to handle the health crisis and after securing the approval of Parliament, as per the reports.
The state of emergency came into effect on Tuesday in the Tokyo metropolitan area and 6 other prefectures -- Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba, Osaka, Hyogo, Fukuoka -- and will conclude on May 6.
It will allow authorities of the prefectures to impose a series of restrictions on citizens and firms to curb the rise in coronavirus infections.
In his address during the meeting broadcast by local TV channels, Abe asked citizens to avoid stepping out of their homes as far as possible until the end of the state of emergency to guard the lives and health of other people.
The Prime Minister, who, just like the others present at the meeting, sported a mask, requested his people for all possible cooperation to put a stop to a drastic increase in the number of infections.
The state of emergency allows governments of Tokyo and therefore the six other prefectures to order the closure of teaching institutes, commercial establishments, entertainment spaces, and sports and cultural event venues.
This measure, however, is not even close to the kind of drastic measures imposed in other countries, like Spain or Italy, where the whole population has been confined with sanctions for those that don't comply.
Abe said it absolutely was important for every citizen to alter their actions and added that economic and social services could remain operational as long as gatherings were avoided.
This is the very first time in Japan's history that the measure has been applied.
The development comes as Japan has recorded 3,906 coronavirus cases, with 92 deaths.