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Gist of interpellations at Upper House budget committee meeting, March 4, 2020

The following is the gist of interpellations at the Upper House budget committee meeting on March 4, 2020:

 

Shortage of face masks

 

Michihiro Ishibashi (CDPJ + DPFP + Reviewing Group on Social Security Policy + Independents’ Forum): Medical workers are struggling due to a shortage of face masks.

 

Health, Labour and Welfare Minister Katsunobu Kato: At the request of prefectural governments and others, we’ve launched a system to preferentially supply a certain number of medical masks to medical institutions with inadequate stock by joining hands with manufacturers and wholesalers.

 

Yuko Mori (CDPJ + DPFP + Reviewing Group on Social Security Policy + Independents’ Forum): How will the government resolve the shortage of face masks?

 

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: We had been relying on China for the supply of face masks. We’ve asked the industry to boost output and told it that the government will buy up any unsold masks. We also have to promptly address the practice of buying them in bulk for the purpose of reselling.

 

Toshiko Takeya (Komeito): I want the government to disclose the number of face masks in stock.

 

Abe: We’re providing information on the websites of the health and economy ministries as well as via social media.

 

Economic measures

 

Tetsuro Fukuyama (CDPJ + DPFP + Reviewing Group on Social Security Policy + Independents’ Forum): Japan has been hit by a double whammy of a consumption tax hike in October last year and the new coronavirus outbreak.

 

Abe: There are concerns about the potential economic impact. We’ll make an all-out effort to address the economic and employment issues by tapping into this fiscal year’s reserve fund of more than 270 billion yen.

 

Takeya: We want the government to subsidize self-employed individuals and freelancers who are seeing a drop in income.

 

Abe: Many people have told me that the situation is very severe. We’d like to take effective support measures with the second set of emergency measures to be compiled next week.

 

Legal adjustments

 

Mori: What items will the government add to the revised law concerning special measures to tackle novel influenza viruses?

 

Abe: We’ll expedite the enactment of legislation to make it possible to declare a state of emergency and request the limited use of facilities.

 

Mori: Are you going to declare a state of emergency?

 

Abe: I’d like to decide whether or not to do so by seeking advice from experts.

 

WHO

 

Ishibashi: World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said South Korea, Italy, Iran, and Japan, which have reported a high number of confirmed cases of infection, are the nations of “greatest concern.”

 

Abe: We must take this seriously. Experts say the next one or two weeks is the crucial period that will decide whether the outbreak spreads quickly or is brought to an end. We have to take every possible measure.

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