Photo/Illutration Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks at a task force meeting on responding to the novel coronavirus outbreak on Feb. 27 at the prime minister’s office in Tokyo. (Takeshi Iwashita)

The continuing spread of new coronavirus infections is affecting many people’s daily lives and corporate activities.

Various events have been called off, scaled down or postponed at the government’s request. Huge numbers of restaurant and hotel reservations have been canceled, and department stores and taxi companies have suffered significant revenue losses.

And with schools abruptly shutting down, many parents have been forced to take time off work to stay at home with their children.

The government is expected to announce its second set of emergency measures next week, the foremost purpose of which should be to allay the public’s growing anxiety.

For parents of children who had to take time off work because of school closures, the government on March 2 announced a new subsidy program that will be in effect until the end of March.

Under this program, companies that pay their employees a full salary despite their absence from work will receive a government subsidy of up to 8,330 yen ($77) per day per worker.

Some companies are already understaffed, but we hope they will take advantage of this program so their workers with children can take time off without fear or guilt.

One flaw of this program, however, is that it applies only to full-time company workers and does not cover independent operators and freelancers.

It is necessary to ensure fair treatment to all working parents who are affected by school closures.

Helpful measures need to be considered, such as creating community-based child care facilities in addition to those that are corporate-based.

What must be avoided at all costs are staff shortages that hamper operations at medical facilities due to their own workers having to take time off to be with their children.

The government needs to get its priorities right in exploring various plans.

As for the tourist industry whose revenues have plummeted because of drastic decreases in domestic and foreign tourists, the government’s first round of emergency financial relief measures, announced in February, have since been expanded to cover a broader array of businesses.

The latest economic measures, proposed on March 3 by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, calls for easing interest rate conditions and accelerated handling of financing issues by reviewing the current complex filing procedure for loan applications.

The government must rectify flaws in the system to meet urgent funding needs.

There are companies specializing in planning and managing various events, and businesses that supply ingredients for school lunches. The impact of the coronavirus on workers varies by region and profession.

Given the fluidity of the situation, it is vital to keep fine-tuning and updating plans to ensure they are realistic and workable.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to fully confront the crisis on his own responsibility. He is duty-bound to live up to his word by formulating a policy that meets the needs of people in all circumstances, and explain it in a reassuring manner.

--The Asahi Shimbun, March 4