Japan to craft another emergency coronavirus package: PM Abe

Feb 29 , 2020. 20 minutes ago – 19:41 – KYODO NEWS

TOKYO – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Saturday his government will create another emergency package by using reserve funds worth over 270 billion yen ($2.5 billion) in around 10 days to help cushion the fallout from the spread of the new coronavirus.

“Japan will take all possible steps needed” to cope with the impact of the virus, Abe said at a press conference in Tokyo, the first since he made an abrupt request earlier this week to close all schools in Japan from Monday for about a month through a spring break.

Abe asked for support from the public for the school closure decision amid fears of group infections, saying the next two weeks will be “critical” in preventing the pneumonia-causing virus from spreading further.

As emergency steps, the government plans to give financial support to parents who need to take time off and look after their children due to the school closure, Abe said.

The package follows the existing one totaling 15.3 billion yen.

Japan has over 900 confirmed coronavirus cases, which include more than 700 linked to the Diamond Princess, a cruise ship docked near Tokyo that had been quarantined. Medical experts and government officials say small groups of infections, or clusters, have appeared in the country.

Abe said the development of rapid virus test kits that can show results in about 15 minutes, compared with the current two to three hours, is under way and they are expected to be put to use in March.

The virus scare that originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan has spread globally and raised speculation that Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Japan this spring may be postponed.

Abe denied that saying Japan and China will step up preparations for the visit to achieve solid outcomes.

He also reiterated that Japan will reinforce work to ensure a safe Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics this summer for athletes and spectators.