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PM Abe says Japan April 1 lockdown, martial law claims 'fake news': reports

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is seen at the prime minister's office in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on March 30, 2020. (Mainichi/Masahiro Kawata)

TOKYO -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has dismissed claims that the government will declare a state of emergency in response to the spread of the novel coronavirus on April 1 as "fake news," according to reports from individuals who attended the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's board meeting at the Diet on March 30.

Abe is claimed to have said, "There's talk going around of a state of emergency declaration on April 1, but that's fake news." He is also reported to have stated, "There are also people saying things like we'll implement martial law, but no provision for it exists in Japan's laws, so it can't be done."

From around March 27, speculation in the government and bureaucracies, and on the internet, began to mount that because a state of emergency would have an effect on stocks if called in March, the Abe administration was planning to issue a declaration on April 1, with a lockdown to start April 2. But a senior government official has criticized such talk as "malicious, false information."

Speaking at a press conference on March 30, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga was emphatic about speculation of a state of emergency declaration: "There's no truth to it. I'm denying it categorically. It's also not true that we've entered the process to call one."

Suga also said, "At the present time we're not in a situation where a declaration is necessary." He added, "It would require us to take a considered decision based on the advice of experts from a wide range of fields, and it would have to go ahead while we inform the Diet of what we're doing. We're not doing that."

Additionally, a call between Prime Minister Abe and World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on March 30 was taken by some as foreshadowing a state of emergency declaration. Suga commented on this speculation too, saying, "The official telephone call had nothing to do with a declaration of a state of emergency or a lockdown."

But on social media the conversation continues, with rumors including that because the end of March represents the end of the fiscal year for companies, and any declaration would affect their stock and business performances, the Ministry of Finance is pushing back against any declaration in March. Others are claiming it will come on or after April 1.

(Japanese original by Shuhei Endo, Jun Aoki and Shinichi Akiyama, Political News Department)

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