Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Wednesday he “cannot” declare a nationwide lockdown even in the face of a spike in the number of confirmed coronavirus infections.

“If I’m asked whether we can impose a lockdown like France, we cannot,” Abe told an upper house committee.

His comment comes one day after the number of confirmed new daily coronavirus infections in Japan jumped to a daily record of 240, including 78 in Tokyo.

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As of Wednesday afternoon, the number of confirmed cases stood at 2,971, including 712 on a cruise ship quarantined in Yokohama in February, while 77 people died of the Covid-19 respiratory illness caused by the virus, according to broadcaster NHK.

A sharp increase prompted lawmakers and experts to call on Abe to declare a state of emergency.

Abe said Japan was “on the brink” of a state of emergency as the coronavirus has continued to spread across the country.

He added that, even if Japan can avoid an explosive spread of the coronavirus, the country is expected to “remain on the brink for a long time.”

Soon after the International Olympic Committee and Japan agreed last week on the postponement of this summer’s Olympics, Tokyo and its neighbouring prefectures urged their citizens to stay home in order to prevent the coronavirus from spreading further.

In mid-March, the Japanese parliament passed legislation to enable the prime minister to declare a state of emergency in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic.


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