The government will consider measures to support the production and installation of ECMO machines, which can provide potentially life-saving treatment for coronavirus patients, in an economic emergency package that the government is developing to deal with the pandemic, a said Minister of Economic Revitalization, Yasutoshi Nishimura.
ECMO stands for membranous extracorporeal oxygenation, a method used to pump oxygen directly into patients while removing carbon dioxide, effectively replacing their breathing mechanism. Nishimura did not mention any details of the potential measures, including a budget.
Nishimura said the government is developing a system to train staff faster so they can use ECMO machines on patients with severe symptoms of COVID-19, the pneumonia-like disease caused by the virus.
The government is developing an extensive economic support program which is expected to be finalized next week. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also promised support for the country’s devastated airlines on Wednesday and said the support program would be large enough to prevent Japan from returning to deflation.
The government will also distribute two reusable cloth masks to every 50 million households in Japan, as supplies of disposable masks have run out in pharmacies and other stores amid the dread of coronaviruses.
The pandemic has weakened an economy that was already on the brink of recession thanks to travel bans and social distancing policies and other directives that have taken a heavy toll on the transportation, retail and tourism sectors, among others.
“The aviation industry is the basic infrastructure of our country that must not be damaged, so we will take steps to support it,” Abe told the Diet without specifying what the support program might entail.
Many other developed countries are already putting in place support measures for their air carriers, with the pandemic driving passenger traffic around the world to a minimum.
Price growth in Japan has been weak or negative since 1998, although repeated stimulus packages developed by the Abe administration since 2012 have helped to stimulate the economy and raise prices. Core consumer inflation hit 0.6% in February.
“We are currently implementing a daring recovery plan. This will of course involve (the issuance) of government bonds, “said Abe, urging the Bank of Japan to continue its massive bond purchases to keep borrowing costs low.
“It has been proven (that) … does not trigger hyperinflation or the yen’s free fall,” as some have suggested, said Abe.
Japan Airlines, meanwhile, warned that it would cut international flights by almost two-thirds in April.
Sources said ANA Holdings, the parent company of Japan’s largest carrier All Nippon Airways, plans to take out a loan of around 100 billion yen to help alleviate the impact of the virus.
With confirmed cases of coronavirus in Japan reaching around 2,200 and 66 deaths, pressure is mounting on the government to order a foreclosure, particularly in Tokyo, where many new infections are emerging.
Ryutaro Kono, chief economist in Japan at BNP Paribas, said he expected the economy to contract 2.9% in fiscal 2020, which began on Wednesday, if capital is locked.
Owners of some of Japan’s largest stores said on Wednesday an unprecedented drop in sales in March after cutting hours to deal with the epidemic.