- Abe's request came after two days of shocking news across the country about the closure of all schools.
- The government hopes to help with the new subsidy program, and plans to provide a second aid program.
- Abe hopes to prepare the health system for the special challenge of COVID-19.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivered a compelling television speech on Saturday, strengthening crisis management in the coronavirus epidemic. After announcing a plan to close all schools on Thursday, he also called on the public to help “fight against the invisible and unknown virus.”
At the same time, he announced a number of new measures, including a second €2.3 billion financial aid plan to reduce the economic impact of the virus wave. “Frankly speaking, this battle cannot be won solely by the efforts of the government,” Abe said. “We cannot do it without understanding and cooperation from every one of you, including medical institutions, families, companies and local governments.”
Preliminary Signs of Hysteria
Abe’s request came after two days of shocking news across the country about the closure of all schools. The request is not legally binding. But since then, the local governments and boards of education in charge of the schools have been frantically trying to achieve this. Working parents desperately want to know more.
But Abe’s appeal has had unforeseen side effects. Many have had a hysterical reaction for the first time since the outbreak. Residents have been buying toilet paper and paper towels since Friday. Other customers bought instant noodles to prevent their communities from imitating Hokkaido, which declared a state of emergency on Friday.
To date, the northern islands have recorded the majority of 241 known viral diseases and have therefore been declared an emergency. As a measure, the county government requires people to stay at home on weekends.
These reactions reflect the government’s fears of the coronavirus situation. The Olympics may be canceled, which will begin in Tokyo in late July. A decision must be made by the end of May. Therefore, it is not surprising that Abe defended the tough measures.
Abe said it is still possible to slow down the epidemic. According to experts, the next two weeks will determine whether the viral wave has spread or subsided. He, therefore, called for the cancellation, postponement or reduction of mass activities. He also said that people must avoid poorly-ventilated rooms. Abe defended the school suspension as well.
At the same time, he announced assistance measures at the local level and asked the government to support affected parents. The government hopes to help with the new subsidy program, and plans to provide a second aid program, totaling €2.3 billion from the budget reserve. In early February, Abe had mobilized €130 million to fight the virus. The exact measures will be decided within the next ten days. He also raised the prospect of a new stimulus plan if the global economic situation worsens.
“For children, March is an important period before the end of an academic year, graduation or entering into higher-level schools,” Abe said. “It is gut-wrenching to shut down schools this period when students make memories with friends with whom they’ve spent the school year.”
At the same time, he tried to increase the number of beds in the isolation station from the current 2,000 to 5,000. With this, Abe hopes to prepare the health system for the special challenge of the disease, called Covid-19, which can cause serious, and sometimes fatal, respiratory ailments. Abe explained that patients were hospitalized longer than victims of the flu. Older people with previous illnesses are particularly vulnerable.
Abe also announced that starting next week, health insurance will cover the cost of virus tests. Currently, 4,000 tests can be performed daily. The Ministry of Health now sets the price at ¥18,000 (€150). The Ministry of Health also announced that the patient’s usual 30% deductible will be borne by the government.
Finally, Abe tried to instill some optimism in the people. The head of the government acknowledged that this would be very difficult for the people. However, his government sincerely sought help from people. “I believe we can overcome this situation.”