(Adds parliamentary statement from Economy Minister)
TOKYO, May 4 (Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to extend the country’s state of emergency on Monday until the end of May following a meeting of the government’s coronavirus task force later in the day.
While much of the world is relaxing lockdown measures, Japan is extending its state of emergency to stop the spread of the highly infectious novel coronavirus and prevent its health system from becoming overwhelmed.
Even though Japan has not seen a huge outbreak compared with some global hotspots, the novel coronavirus has infected more than 15,000 and killed 538 in the country, according to public broadcaster NHK.
Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura informed steering committees of parliament on Monday the government will hold a meeting of its coronavirus task force and extend the state of emergency to the end of the month.
Abe is due to explain the reasoning behind the extension of the state of emergency, which was due to expire on Wednesday, at a news conference in the evening, according to NHK.
The government may also ease some of the current coronavirus-related constraints on economic activity by allowing places with relatively low infection risks, such as parks, to reopen, even in hard-hit prefectures.
The state of emergency gives governors in those prefectures the authority to request residents to stay at home and businesses to close. There are, however, no penalties for non-compliance.
The virus-triggered slump in business activity is threatening to throw the world’s third-largest economy into a deep recession, prompting calls for more government spending.
Japan’s parliament last week approved an extra budget to fund a record $1.1 trillion stimulus package.
Reporting by Daniel Leussink; Editing by Sam Holmes and Raissa Kasolowsky