March 1, (UPI) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Saturday his government will provide subsidies to cope with fallout from rising number of coronavirus cases.
Abe said that the government will create an emergency package by using reserve funds worth over $2.5 billion in around 10 days to deal with the fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We take care of those households by establishing a new subsidy system,” Abe said, referring especially to relieving the financial hardship of parents having to take time off work due to unexpected school closures. “I understand that it will be a big burden for working parents, but the safety and health of the children are most important.”
“I ask for the parents’ and companies’ understanding,” he added.
Abe had announced Thursday that elementary, middle and high schools will close temporarily starting Monday through spring break. Normally, spring break would start from mid-March to April.
Tokyo’s Disney is also closing down its theme parks in Japan from Saturday through March 15, the operator Oriental Land announced Friday, amid rising number of COVID-19 cases.
The government will also give subsidies to small and midsize businesses hit by the outbreak, which has disrupted supply chains and production and affected tourism.
Japan has over 900 confirmed cases, including more than 700 linked to the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked near Tokyo that had been quarantined.
The outbreak has also raised concern about two major events, including Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit planned for the spring and the Tokyo Summer Olympics.
A top adviser to Jinping, Yang Jiechi, met with Abe and Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi in Tokyo reportedly to discuss postponing the visit recently, but Abe told reporters “at this point in time, there is no change in plan.”
“The president of China’s visit to Japan happens once in a decade and we need to consider that,” Abe said. “We plan on continuing our communication with China.”
Abe also tried to ease fears that the Olympics would be impacted, reiterating that the country will continue to prepare for “safe” games for athletes and spectators.
He added that rapid virus test kits that can show results in about 15 minutes instead of the current two to three hours are expected to be developed and put to use in March.
Japan has also already started clinical trials for the anti-flu Avigan in order to see if it is effective in treating people diagnosed with the coronavirus, among other drugs.
Abe said that Japan will also closely monitor the impact of the virus on global financial markets to be prepared to take “necessary and sufficient” steps in response.