The following is the gist of interpellations at the Upper House budget committee meeting on April 30, 2020:
State of emergency declaration
Yuko Mori (Democratic Party for the People, Upper House): Are you going to extend the state of emergency past the (May 6) deadline for about one month?
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: Experts are saying they want to assess the situation after closely monitoring it up through the last minute. I will make the decision based on the experts’ analysis and opinions. Medical institutions are facing a very serious situation. Medical workers are heavily burdened, and the situation continues to be severe.
Mori: When will the decision be made?
Abe: There are issues that need to be resolved and preparations that need to be made for municipalities and administrative bodies. For this reason, I would like to make a decision not too close to the end date but at a time that leave a certain amount of buffer.
Hitoshi Asada (Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party), Lower House): The EU has announced conditions for lifting [their lockdowns].
Abe: I plan to consult experts by referring to ideas of other countries.
Asada: The government should set numerical targets.
Minister in charge Economic Revitalization Yasutoshi Nishimura: Experts are considering two criteria. One is the number of new cases of novel coronavirus. The other is related to the medical system. Experts are focusing on the framework to treat seriously ill patients.
Mori: Why have so few PCR tests been conducted?
Health, Labour and Welfare Minister Katsunobu Kato: We must reflect upon this issue.
Abe: There have been hindrances and regional disparities. We will work together with regional governments.
Akira Koike (Japanese Communist Party): The government should change the system.
Abe: We may have been failing to conduct tests that are deemed necessary by doctors. We have received a variety of criticism. We are cooperating with regional governments to resolve any issues.
Koike: How and by when will the government conduct 20,000 PCR tests?
Health Minister: We’re not saying we’ll perform 20,000 tests because we have the capability to conduct that amount. Currently we have the capacity to perform 15,000 tests. We’ll create conditions which ensure that tests deemed necessary by doctors are performed.
Emergency economic package
Masayoshi Hamada (Komeito): What is the guiding principle [for the economic package]?
Abe: It is important that the [economic package] has immediate impact.
100,000 yen cash handout
Takashi Uto (Liberal Democratic Party): Should people with a high income decline the money?
Economic Revitalization Minister: Some people are considering receiving the money and then donating it.
Subsidies for sustaining businesses
Mori: The situation is very serious.
Abe: If the budget is enacted today, I want people who need the subsidies to start applying tomorrow. We want to deliver the handouts starting as early as May 8.
Koike: Why did the government decide to limit eligible subsidy recipients to businesses facing a decrease in sales of 50%?
Abe: Ideally, I would like to provide subsidies to all businesses that need one, but the criteria set is the conclusion reached taking into consideration our budget scale.
Koike: The government can’t protect companies by just providing a one-time subsidy.
Abe: We will not hesitate to implement measures if we think they are necessary.
September enrollment system
Shinji Morimoto (Democratic Party for the People): Will the government begin work to set up a system [where the school year starts in September]?
Abe: The U.S. and European countries begin the school year in September. We need to consider various options, including September enrollment.
Prolonged school closures
Morimoto: When will students be able to go back to school?
Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Koichi Hagiuda: The situation varies by region. It is important to gradually start the minimum necessary education activities. I hope to issue guidelines by May 1 if possible.