Japan’s PM, deputy to avoid joint meetings

Source:Reuters Published: 2020/3/31 19:33:40

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reacts during a budget committee session of the upper house at parliament on Thursday in Tokyo. Photo: AFP

Japan's Prime Minister (PM) Shinzo Abe and his deputy won't attend meetings together to cut coronavirus risks as pressure for a lockdown builds, with domestic cases topping 2,000 and a minister saying the country's containment strategy was stretched to the limit.

Abe told cabinet members on Tuesday that his second-in-command, Taro Aso, would no longer be present at any meeting the prime minister attends, a government spokesman said, in a move to guard leadership against infection that could hamper Japan's efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

Last week British PM Boris Johnson was obliged to switch to running the country from isolation after testing positive for the virus. Infections have now exceeded 800,000 worldwide, killing more than 38,000, with the US, Italy and Spain overtaking Chinese mainland.

Abe's step came as Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said that Japan was not yet in a situation to declare a state of emergency, triggering a potential lockdown, but that the situation was precarious.

"We're just barely holding it together," Nishimura told reporters on Tuesday. "If we loosen our grip even a little, it wouldn't be surprising to see a sudden surge (in cases)."

Speculation that a lockdown may come soon has been intense in Tokyo, fueled by rising numbers of domestic cases.

A center for disabled people in Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo, found seven more infections on Tuesday, pushing the national total past 2,000.



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