As I begin my remarks, I once again pray for the repose of the souls of each one of those who have lost their lives because of the recent infectious disease. I also extend my sympathy to all those who have been infected. Today, we will lift the declaration of the state of emergency across the entire country.
The number of new cases has dropped below 50 nationwide in recent days and the number of hospitalized patients, which at one time approached 10,000, has fallen to under 2,000. We made the assessment that the entire country had cleared the standards for lifting the state of emergency, which had been set recently at an extremely rigorous level, even from a global standard. Having received the endorsement of the Advisory Committee on the Basic Action Policy, we will take that decision at the Novel Coronavirus Response Headquarters meeting to be held after this press conference.
Since March, an explosive increase in infections has occurred in the United States and Europe. Globally, more than 100,000 new infections are being confirmed on a daily basis, and some countries have undertaken lockdowns and other enforcement measures over more than two months.
In Japan, even when a state of emergency is declared, it is not possible to implement compulsory restrictions on leaving the house that carry penalties. Nevertheless, by adopting an approach particular to Japan, we have succeeded in bringing the current wave of infections almost to an end in as little as a month and a half. I believe this has truly demonstrated the strength of the Japan model.
I extend my heartfelt appreciation to all citizens, who have been persevering with patience in their cooperation until now. I also express my deep respect to all our healthcare professionals, including the doctors, nurses, nursing assistants, and clinical engineers, as well as public health center workers and clinical technologists, who have done their utmost, with a strong sense of mission, despite a severe environment where the risk of infection is always present.
Japan’s responses to this infectious disease are an outstanding model for the world. Last Friday, Mr. António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, commended Japan’s efforts in this way.
In Japan, we have contained the number of infections and fatalities per capita to an overwhelmingly small number among the G7 countries. Our efforts to date are certainly yielding good results, giving hope to and attracting the attention of the world.
From here today, we will take a strong step forward together with the people towards the next stage after the complete lifting of the declaration of a state of emergency. Our goal is to create a new normal for our everyday lives. From now on, let us change our mode of thinking.
If we continue our approach of severely restricting socioeconomic activities, our jobs and daily lives will no longer be sustained. In order to protect our lives, what is needed now is to take a new approach and restore daily socioeconomic activities.
Cultural and artistic events such as concerts and plays enrich our hearts and comfort us. The image of top athletes doing their best gives us dreams and moves us. I think many people eagerly await the day they once again set out on sightseeing trips all around Japan, too. While keeping a close eye on the state of infections, we will restore that kind of daily living little by little and step by step next month and the month after that. We also laid out today a concrete path forward for bringing that about.
Professional baseball and other sporting events will resume next month, first without spectators, then gradually increasing the number of people attending. We intend for concerts and other kinds of events to start from roughly 100 people attending, and then we will increase that number step by step as we keep an eye on the state of infections, expanding to a scale of 1,000 in the audience, then 5,000, then still further to half the venue’s capacity. For all kinds of activities, we will reopen at a full scale on the premise that measures will be taken to prevent infections. Rather than not hold such events because of the risk of infection, we believe that it is critical to have the mindset of how we can hold events while controlling the infection risk from now on.
As for schools, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology has already set out guidelines for reopening, including staggered school attendance.
A series of guidelines on measures to prevent infections, specific to over 100 kinds of industries, are signposts for reopening business activities at full swing and creating a new normal in our daily lives. We would like business operators to refer to these guidelines and get their operations going at full scale. The government will support the reopening of operations for local restaurants and other micro-, small-, and medium-sized business operators by providing support to cover, for example, 100% of the costs of infection-preventing measures consistent with the guidelines, through subsidies of up to 1.5 million yen.
Even when we act in full compliance with the guidelines, we cannot reduce the risk of infection to zero. We must be prepared to go through some trial and error. It will take quite some time as we follow the path to restoring our daily lives completely while holding down the number of infections.
Even at this very moment, a truly significant number of business operators are facing turmoil that brings their business to the edge. Against such a backdrop, taking additional time is a matter of life and death. I am painfully aware of that fact. And yet, we can now see hope. The way out has come into view. Moving towards that exit, we will, together with the people, surmount this steep path forward. We must protect businesses and employment at any cost. Grounded in that determination, the day after tomorrow, we will decide upon the second supplementary budget. In combination with the earlier supplementary budget, the measures will exceed 200 trillion yen in scale. Through those measures at a scale totally unprecedented at 40 percent of GDP, the largest scale anywhere worldwide, we will thoroughly defend the Japanese economy from this crisis of once a century.
We will carry out powerful liquidity support surpassing 130 trillion yen in total. Whether it be major corporations leading the overall economy, small- and medium-sized enterprises that support local economies, or those in between which have become the driving force of growth through their unique technologies, we will provide capital funds, such as subordinated loans or investments, to companies no matter their size, through the Development Bank of Japan and public-private investment funds. The provision of loans that are interest free in real terms with principal repayment deferred for a maximum of five years, provided by local banks, shinkin banks, credit unions in local communities, and other institutions, is also progressing. We will make every effort to get assistance into the hands of those who need it, at the earliest possible moment.
With regard to such assistance for financing companies, the Bank of Japan decided on a new assistance program totaling 75 trillion yen last week. In addition, moving forward, the government and the Bank of Japan will work in tandem to put into place a full spectrum of measures to bring the situation to an end. That determination was announced as a joint declaration of the two, a rare occurrence. We will inject an overwhelming amount of funds through a truly “all Japan” approach and comprehensively support the financing of Japanese companies.
We will boldly reduce the burden of fixed costs, an urgent matter in ensuring business continuity. As a special measure, we will raise the subsidies to be applied to personnel costs to a maximum of 15,000 yen per day, an amount at the most generous level anywhere worldwide. We will also establish a new scheme enabling those who are employed to receive cash directly. We will newly create a subsidy of up to 6 million yen, to reduce rent burdens on commercial properties. With regard to the Sustainability Subsidy (Subsidy Program for Sustaining Businesses), which provides up to 2 million yen in cash, entirely unrestricted in the purpose of its use, we will expand the scope of eligible recipients such that startups newly founded this year can also make use of it. We will increase funding for the Extraordinary Regional Revitalization Grant by 2 trillion yen to make it possible to provide assistance for business operators in a manner well-suited to circumstances in each local area.
We will restore the Japanese economy by shooting our three arrows as powerfully as ever at the target of a new normal for our everyday lives in the age of the coronavirus. Economic revitalization will remain the first and foremost agenda item for the Abe administration among its policies.
There is, however, one point I must emphasize, namely that even after the state of emergency is lifted, the virus will certainly remain present around us. Just as people once let down their guard and fail to maintain their vigilance against the virus or take precautions against infections, the infection spreads in one big wave. This is the most frightening aspect of this virus.
We will restore socioeconomic activity while we take thorough measures to prevent infection. Doing both of these successfully at the same time is an extremely difficult challenge and the possibility of the next wave of infection is always present. During the past month or so, the people have maintained appropriate levels of concern over the virus and have cooperated in making the necessary modifications in their behavior. Citizens are washing their hands diligently and most people now wear a mask when they go out of the house. They are putting into practice efforts to avoid the “three C” by, for example, putting distance between one person and the next in line in the checkout lanes at stores. I am convinced that if such ways of carrying out our new lifestyle continue, we will be able to avoid the worst situation.
Regarding restaurants where staff entertain customers, bars or nightclubs, clubs with live music, and other establishments in night entertainment districts, where the three Cs overlap in a more concentrated way and group infections have been confirmed to date, we express our appreciation for your cooperation. With the cooperation of experts, we intend to provide support so that relevant guidelines are compiled by roughly the middle of June and effective measures to prevent infection can be taken through the use of subsidies up to 2 million yen. Until then, I ask you to continue to take actions to protect yourselves.
Even while building up such efforts, there is still a possibility that the speed of infections will increase and, in the worst-case scenario, a second declaration of a state of emergency could unfortunately be issued. Nevertheless I hope to avoid as much as possible those approaches that restrict socioeconomic activities, such as refraining from going out. If we dramatically decrease the risk of infection outside hospitals, that will be achievable.
Towards that end, it will be necessary to further strengthen counter-cluster measures that identify infected people as early as possible. The key to this approach is the introduction of a contact-tracing app. It is an app aimed at early intervention, with the telecommunication function between smartphones automatically notifying users who have spent a certain period of time with those who have tested positive. In other words, it automatically notifies those with a high likelihood of having been in close contact with infected people.
According to a simulation released by Oxford University last month, the study they conducted concludes that if these kinds of apps are popularized to reach almost 60 percent of the public and lead to the early identification of people who have had close contact with infected persons, lockdowns will be avoidable. In Japan, we plan to introduce an app at roughly the middle of June that does not collect personal information and thus can be used with peace of mind. I very much hope that many people make use of this.
At the same time, we will continue to work to strengthen our screening capacity such that testing will be conducted right away when doctors deem it necessary. While we have already begun using antigen testing, we will move forward in expanding our PCR testing functions, including by making use of testing equipment at universities, in addition to providing support to private-sector testing institutions.
We will also reinforce the structures for taking samples. Aside from dedicated outpatient facilities, we have already established close to 100 PCR centers all around the country, through the cooperation of medical associations, and we will expand this further. We will also build up a budget of over 2 trillion yen and work in cooperation with local authorities to enhance medical systems.
We will designate medical institutions around the country that will intensively admit novel coronavirus patients for treatment and, in preparation for the possibility of a future wave of infections, properly secure a sufficient number of designated hospital beds. We also intend to provide benefits of up to 200,000 yen each to medical practitioners, hospital staff, and workers at nursing care facilities making great efforts on the front lines in this battle with the virus, in addition to extending our heartfelt appreciation towards them.
With regard to high-performance protective masks, medical gowns, and other such personal protective equipment as well, we will make use of the Internet to directly grasp the situation at nearly 8,000 medical institutions around Japan and strengthen the distribution of such items by the government.
Making the best use of this opportunity when the state of infections has settled down, we will accelerate various efforts and make all possible preparations against the possibility of a subsequent wave of infections.
Turning our eyes to the rest of the world, we see that infections continue to spread even now. Against that backdrop, we will take the decision during today’s meeting of the Novel Coronavirus Response Headquarters to further strengthen our border controls. There will now be more than 100 countries subject to denial of entry. In the present day, with substantial globalization of economies, an interruption in the movement of people causes mortal damage to the global economy. The strict lockdowns in Europe and the United States have also resulted in production and other economic activities coming largely to a standstill. There can be no robust revival of the Japanese economy without the restoration of the global economy. Even if infections have settled down domestically, the situation will not truly become resolved unless the global spread of infections is curbed.
We must not be absorbed in addressing issues in our own country exclusively. I believe we cannot resolve this global issue from its roots through an inward-looking mindset. However, countries where infections are increasing have no such luxury. Many of the countries that have until now led the world’s political and economic realms are now fully occupied by their domestic responses. That is the reality. We must not under any circumstances relax our guard. Precisely because we are in such a moment, we will adhere firmly to the universal values of freedom, democracy, basic human rights, and the rule of law. And, Japan should, in a free and open manner, lead the world’s infectious diseases controls, working hand in hand with countries that share these values.
We intend to propose at the G7summit scheduled for next month the establishment of a patent pool that will enable developing countries to utilize pharmaceutical treatments and vaccines against this virus under a highly transparent international framework.
Regarding personal protective equipment, over the past several months we have been working to increase our domestic production. Building up a resilient supply chain in a globalized world, rather than relying on particular countries, is also an issue of vital importance. Making use of Japan’s experiences to date, we will demonstrate strong leadership as we create global measures against infectious diseases and a global order in the age of the coronavirus. That is Japan’s responsibility within the international community. I ask for the understanding and cooperation of the people at the next stage after the state of emergency is lifted.
I will end my opening statement here.