Japan announces state of emergency, gives 100,000 yen ($920) to all citizens for virus relief

Japan’s coronavirus reaction has been somewhat inconsistent, with periods of remarkable action and inexplicable delays. Now, Japan is pushing the pedal on economic support.

Japan’s coronavirus developments have been unusual. At first, the country seemed exposed to the risks of the virus, due to its proximity to China. Fears were confirmed as Japan was one of the first countries outside of China to report COVID-19 cases, but Japan seemed to have things under control — for a while. They tested a lot, traced chains of infections, and the number of cases dropped to a low level.

But then, things started to change.

Unlike South Korea, which continued to focus on mass testing and contact tracing, Japan relaxed. After weeks of keeping things under control, the virus seems to finally get a foothold in Japan, especially in Tokyo’s sprawling metropolis.

At the moment, Japan reports less than 1,000 new cases per day, but this is the critical phase in which the infections can explode in a very short time. The Japanese government delayed action for a while. According to one poll, 75% of people think the government waited too long to declare a state of emergency and measures should have been taken earlier. But now that the state of emergency has been declared, Japan is expected to take serious action.

Among the decisions announced as an economic stimulus, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced plans for a one-time payment to all citizens of 100,000 yen, the rough equivalent of $920

“I will ask the ruling parties to consider giving 100,000 yen each to all people affected by the emergency declaration as they will be asked to refrain from outings and other activities will be restricted” following the expansion of the state of emergency, Abe told a government panel tasked with coronavirus responses.

It’s a similar cash handout to the one in the US, which announced a $1,200 payout to citizens (currently delayed for adding Trump’s name to the checks). However, Japan’s plan comes at an earlier stage than the one in the US, which is currently reporting over new 30,000 coronavirus cases a day.

However, Toshihiro Nagahama, chief economist at the Dai-ichi Life Research Institute, said that the speed of the government’s decision-making is “inferior to that of other countries.” Nevertheless, Nagahama praised the 100,000 yen distribution as it gives a “less unfair feeling as long as people with a relatively high income partially pay back (what they have received) through taxation.”

“If the supplementary budget is reworked, some consideration will be needed for public finance, such as bringing money from other policies to the blanket handout, including that allocated to stimulate consumption after the virus infections are contained, and from the initial budget’s reserve fund,” Nagahama said.

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