Japan: State of Emergency

You may hear that there’s a state of emergency in Japan. Here’s what that means.

Today the Prime Minister declared a state of emergency in seven prefectures including Tokyo, Osaka, and my home prefecture of Fukuoka. Most of the affected areas have large urban centres. Fukuoka is relatively remote and has some, but not many, confirmed coronavirus cases. It was added to the declaration on the request of the prefectural governor, who wanted more authority over the distribution of medical supplies during the crisis.

The state of emergency is not a European style lockdown. The Prime Minister did not even have the authority to declare it without the go-ahead of various advisors. His declaration gives prefectures the power to implement local control measures.

As far as I understand it, no new rules are being put in place for ordinary people. The state of emergency allows prefectures to ask people to refrain from going out as much as possible. They will also be able to commandeer business premises to aid treatment efforts, close public spaces like malls, and may impose other regulations on specific businesses.

My workplace seems unaffected, although my schedule has changed somewhat based on demand. I do not expect major disruption to ordinary life in Fukuoka. Basic services including restaurants will remain open. No mass closures are mandated, and I don’t think they’d be allowed.

The government expects people to avoid going out and companies to allow people to work from home where possible. Public spaces already appear more empty, so I think there will be a major impact just because the government asked nicely. It remains to be seen whether it will be sufficient, but I do expect it will slow the already gradual spread without impacting my routine heavily.

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