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Q&A over how Japan's state of emergency declaration will affect daily lives

A sign indicates a temporary closure in front of Matsuya Ginza department store in Tokyo's Chuo Ward on April 7, 2020. (Mainichi/Toshiki Miyama)

TOKYO -- The Japanese government has declared a state of emergency for seven prefectures including Tokyo and Osaka in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak. The state of emergency was issued in accordance with a revised special measures law that tackles new types of influenza and other infectious diseases. The Mainichi Shimbun answers some common questions readers may have about how their daily lives will be affected.

Question: What happens if we need to go outside?

Answer: Please make sure to maintain a distance of at least 2 meters from others.

Q: How are we required to lead our daily lives?

A: Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike made a public statement on the evening of April 6 prior to the state of emergency declaration regarding what to do in case it is issued. Koike urged residents to strictly refrain from leaving their homes, and to avoid enclosed and crowded places where people come into close contact for necessary outings. The governor also asked that residents practice social distancing and keep a distance of at least 2 meters apart from others. Companies were advised to adopt telework practices and minimize the number of employees that commute to work.

Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura also asked residents to refrain from nonessential, nonurgent outings with the exception of activities to sustain a standard of living, such as commuting to work, going to hospitals, and visiting supermarkets to buy groceries.

Q: Should I be concerned about grocery shopping?

A: The Tokyo Metropolitan Government will not prohibit outings to buy food, medicine and other necessities. It plans to keep open supermarkets, convenience stores, medical institutions, banks and other facilities as suppliers of goods and services essential to everyday life. Therefore, Gov. Koike has called on residents to strictly refrain from panic buying. The government is planning to instruct universities, cram schools, movie theaters, sports gyms, department stores and various other institutions to close down.

Q: What about restaurants and bars?

A: Tokyo is still negotiating with the national government concerning this matter. Although the special measures law is targeted specifically toward large facilities with a floor space of more than 1,000 square meters, the metropolitan government and Osaka Prefectural Government estimate that smaller-sized facilities will also be asked to take preventative measures such as closing their businesses or reducing their opening hours. The Tokyo government specifies leisure facilities including cabarets and nightclubs as locations to be generally closed.

Q: Will companies receive compensation for the closure of their businesses?

A: The Tokyo government is planning to establish a special fund to support small- and medium-sized companies and stores that cooperate in closing business and reducing working hours, among other preventative measures. The Japanese government is also planning to allow struggling businesses to defer payments of taxes including national taxes, regional taxes, and social insurance premiums by one year. The Cabinet has approved a 108 trillion yen ($990 billion) stimulus package to distribute money to households and businesses that saw a sharp decline in their income.

Q: For how long will the state of emergency declaration last?

A: It will last for about one month up to May 6, the last day of the "Golden Week" holiday period. The areas subject to the declaration as well as the period can be changed in consideration with the virus situation.

Q: Will the coronavirus pandemic be put to an end once the state of emergency period is over?

A: In order for the pandemic to end, the rate of infections must be slowed by avoiding contact with other people. Certain limitations will be imposed on individuals' freedom and rights to protect the security of our society. The public's response of taking the self-restraint request seriously is the key to preventing further outbreaks.

(Japanese original by Nobuyuki Shimada, City News Department)

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