On April 16, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) launched a new coronavirus headquarters within the Party Headquarters made up of LDP lawmakers who are also licensed medical doctors. Tasked with making policy recommendations from a medical perspective, the new team is urging the government to speed up clinical trials of antibody testing and facilitate a long-distance transportation network to transfer patients across prefectural borders to ease the burden on the country’s medical system.
The team will also try to influence the LDP Policy Research Council and the Party Organization and Campaign Headquarters so that their policy discussions will better reflect reality of the healthcare system’s frontlines. The new headquarters is expected to give more specialized policy advice than the party’s existing new coronavirus control headquarters.
Vice-Chairman of the Policy Research Council, Tsutomu Tomioka, is the chair of the new headquarters. Lower House member Soichiro Imaeda, who is the headquarters’ secretary-general, told the press, “We will do our best to offer informed advice from the viewpoint of those familiar with the frontlines of Japan’s healthcare system.”
LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai attended the team’s inaugural meeting on April 16 and said, “I’m happy to know we will have your knowledge and experience to guide us. I hope you will lead us in the fight against the virus.” Tomioka and others had previously met with Nikai on April 14 to discuss the establishment of a new team of LDP lawmakers who are also licensed doctors.
The team recommends speeding up trials of coronavirus antibody tests so they can be put to use in May. Germany plans to start its pilot testing program in April, and France also plans to begin wide-scale testing soon.
The team is also calling for the swift establishment of a long-distance patient transportation system. France is using military aircraft and TGV high-speed trains to transport patients in serious condition to surrounding regions and neighboring countries.
In addition, the members of the new headquarters are stressing the importance of sending patients to separate institutions according to the severity of their symptoms. The team is convinced that in order to prevent Japan’s healthcare system from collapsing, it is imperative for people who are waiting to be tested and patients with mild symptoms to be sent to hotels and training centers, and patients in serious condition to be hospitalized at advanced medical institutions such as university hospitals.
During a preparatory meeting on April 15, Tomioka had commented on internal party discussions about various measures against the virus, saying: “We feel that economic measures are now front and center, and medical measures are getting less-than-optimal attention.”