The state of emergency declaration will be in place until May 6th and gives governors of the affected prefectures the authority to ask residents to refrain from non-essential excursions. The governors can also request schools to close and place limits on the use of nursery schools, elderly daycare centers, and other welfare facilities.
However, the governors cannot force private companies to close. While they can urge firms to implement remote work policies or to temporarily close, they have no legal authority to mandate such action.
This is because the declaration is only a request. Unlike the police-enforced stay-at-home orders seen in Italy, France, and other countries, Japan’s declaration is not legally binding and violators will not face any penalties.
Supermarkets and other stores selling food, medicine, and other everyday essentials will remain open.
But the governors do have the authority to close large-capacity facilities. These include department stores, theaters, event venues, hotels, gyms and pools, museums, libraries, and night clubs.
Public transportation is deemed an essential service and is largely unaffected. Most railway and bus companies plan to maintain normal schedules. Major taxi firms in Tokyo will continue operations and there are no restrictions on civilian drivers.
The governors can order the seizure of essential goods, including medicine. Those who refuse to comply will be subject to penalties. The governors can also request delivery companies to transport medical goods and equipment. They can also use private property to set up temporary medical facilities without owner consent.
Cellular operators and delivery companies
The country’s three major mobile phone companies say they have taken measures to prevent any service disruptions that may result from a greater number of people working remotely.
Delivery companies are running as normal. Japan Post and private operators Yamato Transport and Sagawa Express are delivering as usual.
Changing individual behavior
Prime Minister Abe Shinzo said the success of the declaration depends on people changing their own behavior.
“If all of us help to reduce person-to-person contact by at least 70 percent, preferably 80 percent, the infections will peak and start to decline in two weeks.”