Japan in a State of Emergency
Photographer: Dai Kurokawa
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on 16 April expanded a state of emergency to the entire country, after originally only declaring one in limited parts of the country, as the nation struggles to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The government is requesting companies and employers to allow employees work from home in a bid to reduce commutes by 70 percent, but many workers in the capital are unable or not allowed to do so, resulting in tens of thousands commuting in packed trains and stations in key areas of the city. Many of those who are forced to commute to their offices have expressed concerns that they are exposing themselves and others to risks of infection unnecessarily. The government is also asking bars and restaurants to remain closed or reduce their business hours. While many shops are heeding calls from the government to remain closed, some bars and restaurants have been defying the government requests and remaining open nightly with customers sitting side by side with their face masks pulled down to their chins, seemingly complacent to the social distancing guidelines. Japan’s lockdown measures, unlike in Europe, are not mandatory. The government can ‘request’ people to stay at home, but there is no penalty for leaving home and keeping businesses open. Experts say Japan’s constitution needs to be amended to grant such powers to the government. The country’s COVID-19 infections surpassed 15,000 on 04 May. More than 540 people have died countrywide.