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Japan declares state of emergency; global cases top 2M

By Don Jacobson & Danielle Haynes
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Japan declares state of emergency; global cases top 2M
Smaller-than-normal crowds shop at the Sugamo Jizo Dori shopping street in Tokyo on April 11. Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

April 16 (UPI) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a nationwide state of emergency Thursday as the number of coronavirus cases worldwide surpassed 2 million.

The state of emergency now covers the entire country two weeks after Abe issued a declaration in Tokyo and six prefectures. Japan has more than 8,600 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and at least 178 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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"I decided to put all prefectures under the state of emergency to curb infections in respective areas and especially to keep the movement of people to a minimum heading into the Golden Week holidays," Abe said.

The emergency declaration will last until May 6.

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He also announced that Japanese citizens will receive an economic stimulus check of about $930 each.

Britain

British leaders, meanwhile, extended the lockdown there for another three weeks, 25 days after first going under restrictions. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, whom Prime Minister Boris Johnson named as his deputy before being hospitalized with COVID-19, announced the extension Thursday.

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Johnson wasn't involved in the decision-making process on the extension because he's at the prime minister's country residence recovering from his bout with the virus.

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Raab didn't offer specifics on when Britain would begin reopening as the virus' numbers taper off.

"Measures could involve various permutations, some going strong, some easing off," he said.

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According to Johns Hopkins, there are more than 104,000 confirmed cases in Britain and at least 13,755 people have died.

European Union

The European Parliament is expected to consider $3.2 billion in emergency spending and other coronavirus measures starting Thursday.

The EU's legislative body met in Brussels to begin a two-day session ahead of a crucial meeting of European leaders next week.

Its most pressing item is a proposal by the EU executive branch for $3.2 billion in emergency spending to fight the coronavirus pandemic, $3 billion of which comes directly from the bloc's budget.

The funding is for direct purchases and distribution of medical supplies such as masks and respirators, transporting equipment, patients in cross-border regions and the construction of mobile field hospitals.

Lawmakers are also expected to approve special measures funding food delivery for the bloc's poorest and most vulnerable residents.

"History has shown that when an obstacle seems insurmountable, Europe can come together and be creative," European Council President Charles Michel told Parliament as the debate began. "With optimism, determination, let the democratic heart of the EU and our institutions beat. It guarantees the legitimacy of European ambition."

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The debate came as the number of COVID-19 cases surpassed 2.13 million, according to Johns Hopkins University. Deaths numbered more than 141,000 as of Thursday afternoon. The United States has recorded 653,000 cases and nearly 31,000 deaths.

Global cease-fire

International support for a global cease-fire during the pandemic, urged by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, appears to be gathering momentum.

French President Emmanuel Macron told French radio Wednesday he has secured backing for the idea from other leaders of the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, including China, Russia, Britain and the United States.

"[Chinese] President Xi Jinping confirmed his agreement to me," Macron said. "President [Donald] Trump confirmed his agreement to me. [British] Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed his agreement to me. I think [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin will certainly agree, too."

The French president said the five leaders could meet by video conference within the next few days to approve the plan "with great solemnity, strength and even more efficiency."

WHO caution

Meanwhile, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Thursday again urged caution in relaxing stay-at-home orders and reopening economies in hard-hit parts of the world, including Europe and the United States.

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After noting 40,000 more people had died in the last week, Tedros said there are nevertheless "encouraging signs" in some high-impact countries.

"As you know, some countries are now considering lifting social and economic restrictions," he said. "This is something we all want -- but it must be done extremely carefully. If done too quickly, we risk a resurgence that could be even worse than our present situation."

He reiterated the WHO's guidelines on reopening, especially that community transmissions must first be under control and health systems able to "detect, test, isolate and treat every case and trace every contact."

Scenes from a pandemic: World copes with COVID-19

A health worker with the Israeli national emergency service, Magen David Adam, wears protective gear while taking swabs to test for COVID-19 at a drive-through testing center in East Jerusalem on August 26. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo

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