While other countries have implemented strict lockdowns to deal with the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, Japan has so far carried on with business as usual, apart from temporary closure of schools and public facilities, and increasingly frequent calls from leaders urging people to stay home and practice social distancing.
As coronavirus cases began to spike in Tokyo and several other prefectures, the Japanese government has been forced to take more serious measures to halt the rise of coronavirus. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe officially declared a state of emergency in Tokyo, Osaka and five other prefectures on April 7. The state of emergency will stay in place until the end of Golden Week on May 6, but it's yet to be seen exactly how the declaration will affect the daily lives of Tokyoites for the next month. Here is what will change and what will stay the same in the coming weeks in Tokyo.
1. The declaration of the state of emergency does not mean a lockdown like those in place in other parts of the world. Japan's constitution has very strict restrictions on the government's ability to limit people's freedom of movement and assembly. This means that while the government can urge citizens to stay home as much as possible, it cannot penalise individuals for being outside for non-essential purposes.
2. Supermarkets, convenience stores, pharmacies and other essential businesses in Tokyo will remain open and people will be free to leave their homes to buy food and medicine. Basic infrastructures such as banks and public transport will also continue to run as usual and the government will not call for shorter operating hours in public transport. According to a Japan Today report, Abe emphasised that there is an ample food supply and no plans to halt food production, asking citizens not to hoard food and only buy what they need. Currently, there is a stock of at least 3.7 million tons of rice, which is 185 days of supply, as well as 930,000 tons of wheat.
3. Restaurants will not be urged to close, but may be asked to consider shortening their business hours. Keeping restaurants open will allow citizens to order food delivery to their homes or pick up a meal for takeaway around their neighbourhoods.
4. Bars, clubs, music venues and other businesses pertaining to leisure will be urged to close and are likely to shut per the government's request, but there are no official penalties in place for establishments that defy the demand. Instead, prefectural governments can publicise the names of businesses that refuse to close, with the aim of shaming them into compliance.
5. Abe asks that people avoid gathering in groups apart from with family members, and being in crowded spaces. The PM clarified that there is no problem with individuals seeking fresh air going for a solitary walk or jog. According to The Japan Times, Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike has urged people to self isolate starting from 12midnight on April 8. The governor asserted that during necessary trips outside the home, people should stay at least 2m apart from each other.
Get live updates on the Covid-19 coronavirus situation in Tokyo and Japan here.
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