Japan has extended its nationwide state of emergency over Covid-19 (coronavirus) until 31st May, as the country continues its battle against the virus and looks to another uphill challenge ahead in reviving its economy.

There are reportedly signs of the epidemic ‘levelling off’ in Japan and the country moving past its peak of the virus.

At the time of writing, Japan has just over 15,000 confirmed cases and 536 fatalities according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.

There have also been widespread reports of its hospitals being overwhelmed by the crisis and flaws in its healthcare system being exposed, however, with a need to reduce the strain on overcrowded hospitals across the country.

Against this backdrop, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday confirmed the expected extension of Japan’ state of emergency until 31st May. “The one-month period is designed for us to prepare for the next step and put an end to the state of emergency,” Abe is reported to have said during a televised press conference.

Coronavirus with masked man

Whilst curbing the spread of Covid-19, the measures also call for a comprehensive plan for the restart of the country’s economy.

Japan has the third-largest economy in the world, but is facing steep economic challenges, as national factory activity has slowed and capital Tokyo has seen prices fall in the month of April.

Japan has never been far from economic struggles in the last three decades. It endured a well-known ‘lost decade’ of economic stagnation from 1991 to 2000 as stock market and real estate bubbles burst and low GDP growth and even deflation ensued as a result.

Though a mild economy recovery was experienced post-2000, according to gasworld Business Intelligence GDP grew at a relatively low rate of 2% p.a. (per annum) over the course of the decade from 2008-2018. “This highlights the struggle faced by the Japanese economy over the period, where economic growth remained fairly low and flat,” it said in a 2018/19 report.

This struggle has only continued in the period since, with Japan dealing with slow economic growth since late 2018 as it was affected by the knock-on effects of the well-documented US-China trade war in particular.

Japan financial market growth

The Japanese industrial gas market vies with China as the second or third-largest in the world, after the US, according to gasworld Business Intelligence, and was valued at around $5.98bn in 2018. This was only up from $5.15bn in 2008, however, a compound annual growth rate of 1.5%.

While growth over the last decade has been poor, it adds, there are some potential upsides going forward. There are for instance some good potential opportunities for onsite operators in Japan, if they are able to convince the country’s chemical and refining industries of moving away from captive supply to onsite supply instead.

Within the 2018-2023 timeframe, gasworld Business Intelligence predicts growth of between 2.4% p.a. in a low scenario, 3.0% p.a. in a high scenario for the country’s industrial gas market.