"In cooperation with local governments, we will take every effort to prevent the spread of infection while anticipating the worst-case scenario", Abe said at a press conference, as broadcast by his press service.
He further warned of a possibility of "an explosive surge in infections" in the country as the number of patients whose transmission route is unknown is increasing. "The situation in Japan may become similar [to the one in Europe] in a short time", the prime minister said.
"We are preparing economic measures of an unprecedented scale that exceeds those during the Lehman Brothers shock", Abe said, adding "I need you to be prepared for a long battle".
In 2008-2009, the bankruptcy of banking conglomerate Lehman Brothers, one of the pillars of the US financial system at a time, caused the US bond market to collapse, triggering, in turn, a global economic crisis.
Abe said he would instruct the government response headquarters on these measures at a meeting shortly after the press conference. He also said that the draft supplementary budget for the new fiscal year accounting for the COVID-19 economic measures would be submitted to the parliament "as soon as possible".
Commenting on whether he would declare a state of emergency, as he was empowered to do by the parliament in new legislation earlier this month, Abe said that the country was "barely holding up", and added, "we are still on the brink".
He also announced the launch of clinical trials of the antiviral drug Avigan, also known as Favipiravir and T-705, for the treatment of COVID-19.
On 13 March, the Japanese parliament enacted a temporary two-year bill that empowered Abe to declare a state of emergency over COVID-19 if he deems it necessary. Local authorities were empowered to obligate residents to remain indoors and provide essential supplies such as food and medicine, as well as their private premises, to be used for the purpose of arranging medical care facilities.
The Japanese government has already invested some $15.5 billion into tackling the COVID-19 spread, including compensations to parents who had to recess due to school closures and no-interest loans to small- and medium-sized businesses that bore financial loss due to the pandemic.