Abe Shinzo draws closer to declaring a state of emergency

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BARELY TWO weeks ago, the notion that Tokyo’s summer Olympic games should be postponed on account of the coronavirus pandemic was taboo among Japan’s ruling elites and the deferential national broadcaster, NHK. So, too, was any suggestion that covid-19 was not under control. But as soon as the prime minister, Abe Shinzo, admitted on March 24th that the games could not go ahead as planned, it was if a dam had burst. Growing alarm at the spread of the virus, notably in the capital, is now at the centre of the political discourse. For ordinary Japanese a turning-point came on March 29th, with the death from covid-19 of a comedian and beloved household name, Shimura Ken.

The alarm is appropriate. Japanese habits of hygiene and removing shoes inside, strong messaging about washing hands, and Mr Abe’s urging in February that schools temporarily close had appeared to be containing the virus. In comparison with Europe and America, Japan’s record is still...

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