Japan’s Aichi Prefecture declares its own coronavirus emergency

TOKYO — Japan’s Aichi Prefecture declared its own state of emergency on Friday, signaling tension between the central and local governments over efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak. 

“We will take every measure with the highest priority on protecting the lives and health of citizens of the prefecture,” Aichi Gov. Hideaki Omura said at a meeting at the prefectural office.

Under the prefecture-specific emergency declaration, which lasts until May 6, residents are strongly urged to refrain from going out. Located in central Japan, Aichi is home to Nagoya, the country’s fourth-largest city, and carmaker Toyota Motor.

Emergency measures were announced along with the declaration. In addition to expanding the healthcare system and testing capacity, the local government plans to help prevent reputational damage to healthcare workers and provide financing support to a wide range of industries including agriculture, forestry and fisheries, construction, and tourism.

The Japanese government declared a state of emergency on Tuesday, but the measure only targeted Tokyo, Osaka and five other prefectures. Omura has been calling for Aichi, which had the fifth-largest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country, to be added to the list.

The central government plans to assess the effect of Aichi’s unique declaration and decide whether to add the prefecture based on experts’ opinion.

Aichi’s declaration is not legally binding, unlike emergency declarations under the central government’s state emergency law. But Hokkaido, which issued its own emergency declaration in February, managed to avoid a surge in the number of infected people and Aichi is following suit to send a strong message to citizens.

The move is the latest twist as the central and local governments engage in a tug of war between curbing infections and limiting the economic impact.

In Tokyo, barber shops and hardware stores were originally on the list of business closures but will now be allowed to operate as essential services, along with baseball batting cages and golf driving ranges.

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