TOKYO: Japan’s coronavirus outbreak is not at a stage that requires the government to declare an emergency, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Saturday (Mar 14).

Abe, who made the comment at a news conference in Tokyo, also said that experts have concluded that Japan has not seen an explosive rise in coronavirus cases.

The number of coronavirus cases in Japan has risen to 1,423 as of Saturday, said public broadcaster NHK. The total of 1,423 infections includes 697 from the Diamond Princess cruise ship and 14 returnees on charter flights from China, according to NHK data.

Japan has now recorded 28 deaths from the virus, including seven from the cruise ship, NHK said.

Abe and his government have been adamant the Olympics will go ahead, even as other global sporting events have been put on hold. 

READ: South Korea reports more COVID-19 recoveries than new infections for second consecutive day

Speculation about a delay from the July start date has grown since US President Donald Trump said organisers should consider a one-year postponement.

Abe and Trump held a call after those comments, prompting the US president to say on Twitter that the Olympic venue was magnificent. But this may not be enough to assuage sponsors of the Games, who are increasingly nervous about how the impact of the outbreak on the competition.

The Olympic Torch relay, in which the Olympic flame typically starts a tour around the host nation, is due to start in the Japanese prefecture of Fukushima in less than two weeks. The tour of the torch through Greece has already been cut short.

“We will overcome the spread of the infection and host the Olympics without problem, as planned,” Abe told a news conference in Tokyo, adding that delaying or cancelling the Olympics was “not a subject at all” in his call with Trump.

READ: Trump declares coronavirus national emergency

He said Japan working closely with the International Olympic Committee, which will have the final decision whether the Games go ahead, and the UN World Health Organization, suggesting he accepted that Tokyo would not ultimately decide on the event.

He said Japan had a relatively low infection rate and had not seen an explosion in cases as seen in South Korea, China, Italy, Iran and elsewhere. He said delaying the peak of infections was vital to ensure treatment of those in critical condition.

SPEARHEAD COOPERATION TO SUPPORT ECONOMY

Japan will aim to spearhead cooperation among major nations around the world to support a weakening global economy, Abe said, warning that policy coordination was critical to fight “disruptions” in world financial markets.

The remarks on Saturday came after the White House said Trump will hold a video-conference on the coronavirus with G7 leaders early next week.

Abe also said Japan will consider various options, including a proposal by ruling party lawmakers to temporarily cut the country’s sales tax rate, to support an economy suffering “quite a big blow” from the coronavirus outbreak.

READ: Iran coronavirus death toll rises by nearly one hundred to 611

“The near-term focus is on containing the virus. After that, we need to put Japan’s economy back on a solid footing. We will take bold, unprecedented steps to achieve this,” he told a news conference.

As fears of the epidemic jolts markets, Japan will aim to lead the debate on global coordination, including on economic policy, using frameworks such as the Group of Seven and Group of 20, Abe said.

“The impact of the coronavirus [on the global economy] has been enormous and markets are suffering disruptions,” he said.

“The government will closely coordinate with other countries as well as with the Bank of Japan. If necessary, we’ll respond appropriately in line with agreements made by the G7 and G20.”

While the G7 and G20 nations have pledged to take all necessary steps to fend off the shock to their economies from the virus, that has done little to prevent asset prices from crumbling last week on fears the epidemic could trigger a global recession.

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