Japan expands virus emergency to cover 60pc of economy

14 January, 2021 12:00 AM printer

TOKYO: Japan expanded its state of emergency beyond the Tokyo region to encompass the country’s other main economic hubs, as it battles to contain a record surge in coronavirus cases.

The government is adding seven more prefectures to the existing emergency declaration, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told his virus task force on Wednesday. He is set to give a news conference at 7 p.m. in Tokyo, report agencies.

Together with the capital and three neighboring prefectures that came under the state of emergency last week, the areas account for more than half of the nation’s output. The expansion would further strengthen the likelihood of the world’s third-largest economy slipping back into reverse this quarter.

The prefectures added include the business and manufacturing hub of Osaka along with nearby Kyoto and Hyogo, and the industrial heartland of Aichi, which is home to Toyota Motor Corp., plus bordering Gifu. The other areas are the prefecture surrounding and including Fukuoka, the largest city in the southern island of Kyushu, and Tochigi, located north of Tokyo.

“There’s no question that the economy will contract in the first quarter,” said economist Hiroaki Muto at Sumitomo Life Insurance Co. “Nobody thinks they can end the state of emergency in a month. It will take at least a full two months.”

The 11 areas account for about 60% of the economy’s total output, according to government data. The emergency in the additional areas is set to start Thursday and end on Feb. 7, in line with Tokyo, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said earlier.