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Mar 10, 2020

Is Abe preparing to declare an emergency? And what would that mean?

"Cabinet OKs bill to enable Abe to declare emergency amid virus spread" https://www.city-cost.com/blogs/KyodoNewsPlus/MnxPJ-news It could be passed by Friday. I know none of us have a crystal ball, but what do you think might happen? Is he clearing this bill because he's preparing to declare an emergency? And if so, what would that mean? Something similar to Italy or China?

BigfamJapan

BigfamJapan

Former nickname was "Saitama". Changed it to save confusion on place review posts! Irish, 20+ years in Japan! I also write on my personal website: insaitama.com

21 Answers



  • genkidesu

    on Mar 10

    I personally (and I am not a political expert at all) would think he'd be reluctant to declare any kind of emergency state, because IMO that means he's lost control (or his government) has. Mainly I feel like the Olympics would be the cause of any reluctance..I feel like Abe wants the Olympics to be his "swansong", so to speak...and if he declares a state of emergency I wonder how that's going to play out in terms of the Olympics going ahead as planned. I heard about all of Italy being on lockdown now, similar to what happened (maybe is still happening?) in Wuhan, and I just don't know that initiating something like that in Japan is going to do wonders for the "business as usual" vibe that everyone wants. Wish it had been taken more seriously from the start. I think that the government was already on the back foot when people were brought back to Japan from Wuhan and declined health tests. That should have been mandatory for anyone hopping on a plane. Then there was the whole Princess Cruises debacle...all a mess...

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  • BigfamJapan

    on Mar 10

    @genkidesu he's really made a mess of it alright. The extremes are embarrassing. Absolutely no action, to closing schools. But as he's vamping it up - restricting hanami, the travel restrictions etc - I kind of think he's building up to a blanket lockdown. I also worry that he's given up on the Olympics as his crowning glory and possibly aiming to make his (unforgivably late) response to Covid-19 his "swansong" (love that word). I hope I am wrong.

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  • genkidesu

    on Mar 10

    @Saitama I hear you! I am a little nervous, the more I think about it. I'm okay staying in a semi-lockdown state when I'm doing it myself (we're limiting big groups and keeping our out of the house activity to wide open spaces), but the idea of it being government-mandated adds a whole new element to it all. I've thought a couple of times about heading home with the kids, but honestly I'm petrified of the situation getting worse (unable to get back, etc). I don't think I would be as concerned if it was just me and my husband, but you know how it is with kids! Adds a whole extra layer of complexities, concerns, and lives you are worrying about!

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  • KamaT

    on Mar 10

    It does have bit of a dystopian tone to it, doesn't it? Plus I worry what kind of effect the words "state of emergency" will have on all of this stupid panic-buying that's going on right now. Perhaps instead of the coronavirus it will be a lack of basic supplies and bog roll that will become the main issue. Although not for everyone because it seems that some people out there must be well stocked for about the next 6 months. I read at lunch about a FB post from a doctor in Canada that went, excuse the term, "viral." All about him not fearing Covid-19, but the way we've reacted to it. Puts some perspective on things ... "What I am scared about is the loss of reason and wave of fear that has induced the masses of society into a spellbinding spiral of panic, stockpiling obscene quantities of anything that could fill a bomb shelter adequately in a post-apocalyptic world. " It goes on ... https://www.facebook.com/abdu.sharkawy/posts/2809958409125474

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  • genkidesu

    on Mar 10

    @Tomuu just read the post you linked, and it echoed a lot of what I'm worried about. Situations like these can bring out both the absolute best and absolute worst in humanity Saw footage on an Australian news website the other day of people in a supermarket throwing punches over toilet paper. Some of those things he mentioned in his piece are already coming to fruition - read that in Italy, even weddings and funerals have been canceled. Not a clue when there's going to be some respite from all things Covid19 but we seem stuck with it for the near future, at least.

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  • ReishiiTravels

    on Mar 11

    @genkidesu I am really hoping you are right. I am really anxious to see what happens. I have a trip to the US from March 30th and I am not able to change it so keeping my fingers crossed. When I read that news I was worried about Japan becoming like Italy, but at the same time, after the 15th, it seems like many businesses and even private schools are planning to go back to business as usual. I feel like if it was that bad, then teachers wouldn't be going to school, but I really don't know. After all the money that has been spent on the Olympics, I feel like he wont give it up easily.

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  • BigfamJapan

    on Mar 12

    I guess we will know in a day or two what the next phase is. I really don't know what he is thinking. Of course all of this could be in a bid to keep the Olympics, rather than him having given up on them as I said above (I don't know what I believe or rather what to believe!!), but now that the WHO have finally stamped it "pandemic" there is a higher chance of a postponement or worse to the games... only time will tell. It is all so tiring and disconcerting with no end in sight. Please God they will find decent treatment sooner rather than later. A vaccine will be great obviously, but useless to the thousands already effected and at this stage there is no way they can get one out in time to control the spread.

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  • BigfamJapan

    on Mar 12

    @Tomuu I read that post, thanks for sharing, and it calmed me down. I sent it to a friend hoping to calm her down too and she sent me back one by an American virologist who basically said this is the scariest coronavirus he's ever seen! Sigh.

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  • KamaT

    on Mar 12

    @Saitama - It's difficult, isn't it? So many opinions from one extreme to the other and you just don't know who to believe. For me, just taking those positive steps that are within my control to take and that seem to make common sense is the best way in a situation like this. The only way, really.

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  • KamaT

    on Mar 12

    @genkidesu - I've heard about that toilet paper punch-up footage from Australia. Don't want to watch it but from what I've heard it's that which has sparked much of the toilet paper hoarding in other parts of the world. As I understand it though, the bust up was over the fact that it was being offered at a discount price and nothing to do with coronavirus fears. Crazy situation!

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  • genkidesu

    on Mar 13

    @Tomuu I didn't even know that it wasn't related to COVID19, guess that's even more indicative of how the media can spin narratives to fit a situation they want to portray!

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  • TonetoEdo

    on Mar 13

    We now have a plan in place - when, or if, it will be implemented, is another question. And it's time limited. https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2020/03/57cfa56d5ecc-urgent-japans-diet-gives-abe-power-to-declare-emergency-amid-viral-fears.html

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  • KamaT

    on Mar 13

    @TonetoEdo - I'm wondering what the saturation point is such that a state of emergency needs to be declared. What makes me nervous about the idea of a state of emergency is the prospect of it creating another emergency, i.e. empty shelves in the supermarkets and punch-ups over silly stuff.

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  • genkidesu

    on Mar 14

    For those of you who were in Japan in 2011 after the triple disaster...I assume the government declared a state of emergency then? What was the general feeling among people (were people panicking/stocking up in stores?) Reason I ask is because I was talking to my sister back home, and she was saying about how public reaction to the recent bushfires there compared to COVID19 is like night and day. People were prepared to give basically the shirt off their own back to anyone affected by the fires, there were huge donations, etc...but the whole COVID situation is basically a complete 180 from that.

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  • KamaT

    on Mar 16

    @genkidesu - I was here during / after 3/11. I can't remember a state of emergency being declared or even if the PM had the power to do so at that time. Declaration or not though, I think a "state of emergency" was evident in the areas directly affected. At that time I was based in Tokyo. The panic buying was mostly for bread and gas for cars so in terms of shopping for daily life, it wasn't such a problem. That was my experience in Tokyo. I seem to remember the people of Japan being praised by foreign media for the relatively calm way in which they were getting on with life in the aftermath, where in other countries people suggested that a similar disaster might have caused rioting and looting. I wasn't aware of any of that going on over here at the time. Again though, Tokyo was far from the real devastation so I can't really comment on the situation in the most affected areas. I think with the new coronavirus there's that element of the unseen and unknown about it which lends to a sense of both frustration and creepiness (for want of a better term). I think this probably exacerbates the fear and sense of distrust which makes it harder to invoke that kind of spirit of unity. Maybe.

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  • BigfamJapan

    on Mar 16

    @genkidesu and @Tomuu gosh yes, after the triple disaster there was pandemonium for a while. We were in Saitama at that time. I remember the petrol stations all closed down. And nappies and baby formula were sold out, a bit like the toilet paper situation now. I don't remember toilet paper being in short supply at that time though. I tell you, it pays to be friendly with your local shops and services. After 3/11 when the petrol was in short supply we got a phone call from our local petrol station to come down to the station at 11 pm that night and they'd fill our tank!! During Covid my son's friend's Mom who works in our local supermarket got in touch to let us know they had disinfecting wipes back in store. And a member of staff of our local pharmacy quite literally flagged my husband down as he was driving by to let him know they had toilet paper in stock!!

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  • genkidesu

    on Mar 16

    @Tomuu @Saitama that was helpful info - it definitely seems like Covid is making people act in a weird way - perhaps a more globally impacted event rather than location specific is causing it, too. Amazing what fear does to people's reactions. Another question for you both, though, as you've both had more Japan experience than me. Without getting too political (and without me putting on my tin-foil hat), do you think Abe is fudging the numbers? I feel like we're seeing so many fewer tests here than other countries, and I guess the skeptic in me thinks he's trying to make things look like they're better than they really are. I read the article on the 15 "clusters" they think are the main causes of Covid in Japan, but I just feel like the numbers aren't right. I feel like this all really blew up around the time of Chinese Lunar New Year in late January, and you think to yourself that the biggest portion of Japan's tourism comes from China. I value both of your opinions on everything about life in Japan, so would love to hear your thoughts...conspiracy theories optional ;)

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  • BigfamJapan

    on Mar 16

    @genkidesu I have absolutely no doubt that the current figures for Japan are highly inaccurate. It is reminiscent of what happened in the earthquake actually. They were way later here to release realistic figures (of deaths, injuries and displacements) than the rest of the world. Media outside Japan was giving high figures of deaths and in Japan we were being told really low number figures here. Eventually Japan caught up, but it was at least a week after the world media had quoted what turned out to have been accurate figures. Now, I do think this is where Japanese rationale is useful. I personally believe that then they were trying to be accurate rather than scaremongering with the suspected figures earlier on. A lot of things came out months after the triple disaster and I am CERTAIN it will be the same again this time. I suspect that the number of people who have contracted pneumonia in the last couple of months has been far higher than the yearly average. And that for now those cases of pneumonia are being called cases of pneumonia and not being put in with the Covid-19 cases. But that in due course when they are in a better position to assess these cases, they will be added to the Covid-19 figures. There are so many tales of people being refused testing for one bizarre reason or another, even when their Doctor believes they should been tested. I believe the vast majority of these people have the virus, but won't be counted as such for a long time yet. I am not sure if Abe is fudging the numbers intentionally or if he is being careful, but I believe the numbers are so far skewed in Japan as not to be indicative at all of the actual current situation and this is why I will keep us in isolation for as long as possible!

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  • JapanRamen

    on Mar 17

    My feeling was that this was a move to set himself and the govt up to have more power, and that thought is a rather scary one too...

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  • KamaT

    on Mar 21

    @genkidesu - I don't know about the fudging the numbers thing. I mean, it wouldn't surprise me (in Japan or any country). It does seem to be a popular opinion though that Japan is conducting fewer tests than other nations. I have no insight though into what the thinking or reasoning is behind this. I thought this piece on Bloomberg was quite interesting, presenting cases for both greater testing and less testing, in the case of Japan. "A Coronavirus Explosion Was Expected in Japan. Where Is It?" - March 19 https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-19/a-coronavirus-explosion-was-expected-in-japan-where-is-it

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  • genkidesu

    on Mar 22

    @Tomuu just read a similar commentary piece on Japan Times yesterday which mentioned a few of the topics covered in the article you linked: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2020/03/21/commentary/japan-commentary/japan-still-coronavirus-outlier/#.XnacJagzbIU Definitely interesting that some of Japan's cultural intricacies (the bowing over shaking hands being just one) may have insulated us from the spread, to a degree.

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