TOKYO : Japan's government Tuesday approved a draft that would allow authorities to keep people inside and commandeer buildings for hospitals, as Tokyo steps its fights against coronavirus five months before the Olympics.

If approved by parliament, the draft bill would give Prime Minister Shinzo Abe the power to declare a state of emergency and impose drastic measures but Tokyo stressed that the situation had not yet reached that point.

Tokyo has said the coming few weeks will be crucial in slowing the spread of the coronovirus and Abe has urged schools to close for several weeks, in an announcement that caught the whole country off-guard.

The bill approved by the cabinet on Tuesday is a revision of a  2012 law aimed to slow the spread of new strains of flu and is expected to sail through parliament this week with opposition support.

Under the new law, once the prime minister declares a state of emergency in a specific part of the country, local governments can require residents to stay indoors, close schools and limit the use of facilities in which large numbers of people gather.

Land buildings could be requisitioned as makeshift hospitals.

Abe has said that even though Japan is not yet seeing an epidemic over a wide area, ''it is important to always prepare for the worst case.''

With the new legislation, the government can take similar steps against the new coronavirus for up to two years.

Separately, Abe has pledged an emergency financial package to tackle the outbreak. [AFP] 


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