Japan Offers $930 Virus Stimulus Payment to All

People gather on a bridge over the Megro River to view cherry blossoms on March 27, 2020, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

TOKYO (AFP) — Japan will offer a cash payment of $930 to every resident, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday, as measures to contain the coronavirus decimate the world’s third-biggest economy.

“We are moving quickly to deliver cash to all people,” Abe said in a televised news conference to explain his decision to expand a state of emergency nationwide.

An initial plan to provide three times that amount to households, which have seen incomes slashed because of the coronavirus, was ditched and Abe apologized for the confusion.

Japan has relatively few cases and deaths compared to hotspots in Europe and the United States but a recent spike in Tokyo — which logged a daily record 201 new cases on Friday — has sparked concern.

Abe initially declared a state of emergency in seven regions of the country and expanded it on Thursday to include the entire country.

He said the decision was taken to restrict domestic travel during the Golden Week holidays in late April and early May, when many Japanese leave cities to visit family elsewhere.

The state of emergency hands regional governors the power to demand people stay indoors but stops far short of restrictions seen elsewhere, as there is no punishment for transgression.

Abe said authorities would reassess the situation on May 6 at the end of the public holiday, saying, “If we can all refrain from going out, we can drastically reduce the number of patients in two weeks.

“The future depends on our behavior,” he said, adding that his goal for everyone to reduce social contact by at least 70% has not yet been achieved.

The Japanese economy was heading for recession even before the coronavirus pandemic, contracting by 1.8% in the final quarter of last year.

Since then, tourism has dropped by as much as 90%, industry and trade have ground to a halt and the virus forced the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics that was anticipated to provide a boost to the economy.

In March, Abe unveiled a package of stimulus measures worth around $1 trillion to protect jobs, bolster the medical sector and ease the pain for working families.

A delivery of two masks to each household began Friday, though the move has been greeted with much derision online.

© Agence France-Presse

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