Japanese Go To Work As Prime Minister Resists Calling Virus Emergency

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Japanese Go To Work As Prime Minister Resists Calling Virus Emergency
Prime Minister Abe Shinzo resists declaring an emergency, which could enforce social distancing and compel companies to let employees work from home.
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There may be a coronavirus pandemic, but Japan's "salary men" and "salary women" are still going to the office in droves.

Coronavirus fears convinced Japan to put off the 2020 Summer Olympics until next year. But Prime Minister Abe Shinzo continues to resist declaring an emergency, which could enforce social distancing rules and compel more companies to let employees work from home.

Japan's working culture puts a premium on office appearances and putting in long hours in view of the boss. 

Some major companies, including Honda, Nissan and Toyota, are now promoting telecommuting. And Japan's Ministry of Labor is offering modest  grants to help smaller firms do the same. But CNN reports the overwhelming majority of the workforce is heading to the office.

Japan, as of Friday, had more than 2,600 diagnosed coronavirus cases — barely more than 1% of the confirmed cases in the U.S. But Japan also had only tested about 35,000 people. That compares with more than 430,000 in South Korea, with a population of less than half of Japan's.

Tokyo's governor, Yuriko Koike, has urged the city's 13.5 million residents to work from home until April 12. But there has been no such order from the prime minister. 

After the Olympics postponement, Abe said Japan was bracing for a jump in coronavirus cases but a state of emergency wasn't needed.

Instead, he promised that the government would give each household two reusable cloth masks for coronavirus protection. Some Japanese residents have taken to mocking him on social media — under the hashtag "Abe's mask."