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86% of Japanese practicing greater social distancing after emergency declaration: survey

Midosuji boulevard in Osaka's Chuo Ward is seen nearly devoid of cars on April 8, 2020, a day after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a state of emergency over the novel coronavirus pandemic. (Mainichi/Naohiro Yamada)

TOKYO -- People in Japan are increasingly fearful of the spread of the novel coronavirus, and a large majority are practicing greater social distancing now than before the April 7 state of emergency declaration, a survey conducted April 8 by the Mainichi Shimbun and other bodies has found.

Some 86% of the 2,190 respondents to the telephone survey said they were "engaging in greater self-restraint" -- such as refraining from going outside or attending events -- after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the state of emergency, which currently covers Tokyo plus Osaka, Hyogo, Saitama, Kanagawa, Chiba and Fukuoka prefectures. At 87% to 85%, there was nearly no difference in the figures for respondents in these seven prefectures versus those outside them.

Just 13% of total respondents said they had not changed their routines.

Meanwhile, 63% of respondents living outside the target areas said the state of emergency should be expanded to more parts of Japan, as against 55% of respondents inside the seven prefectures now covered.

Of the 1,144 respondents who answered on their mobile phones, 916 submitted freeform answers to the question, "What about the coronavirus pandemic is causing you the most trouble?" The most common answer, at 170, was lack of masks, followed by job-related problems at 115. The other most common subjects listed were risk of infection, income, and child care.

On the government's plan to give one-time payments of 300,000 yen to those households that see their income drop due to the coronavirus crisis, 46% of survey takers said they believed the measure was insufficient to help people. This sentiment was especially strong among people in their 20s to their 40s, over 50% of whom said the measure fell short.

Forty-four percent of respondents said they supported the Abe Cabinet. Meanwhile, 34% said they backed the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, 9% the largest opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, 5% Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party), 4% the Japanese Communist Party, 3% each for junior ruling coalition party Komeito and opposition party Reiwa Shinsengumi, and 1% supported the Democratic Party for the People. A total of 36% said they did not back a particular party.

(Japanese original by Shingo Okuma, Poll Office)

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