Below are excerpts of an interview with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe; interview by Mayumi Ogawa and Rui Abiru.
Q: Are there plans to lift restrictions on entry to Japan?
A: Although the number of new infections in the U.S. and Europe has decreased, the numbers there remain higher than in Japan. The situation is highly unpredictable when we look at the upward trend of infections worldwide.
Q: There has been much criticism of the Japanese government [in its handling of the crisis].
A: People have endured self-restraint in various aspects of their lives and cannot do as they please. There are uncertainties in terms of the economy, jobs, and everyday life. Under these circumstances, it is normal for people to think, What is the government doing? At the same time, I am very grateful that some people have evaluated [the government] based on the facts. There is no correct answer. It cannot be helped that there are criticism and discontent. I would like to sincerely accept all criticism as the voice of the people and do my best.
In January, the first wave of the new coronavirus came to Japan via China. Japan restricted the entry of people from Hubei Province, China, ahead of many other countries. Japan is thought to have suppressed the first wave with strict cluster control measures. In March, the second wave of the new coronavirus arrived via Europe and the U.S. The second wave, together with relaxation of self-restraint during the March holiday, led to a nationwide spread of infection. I would like to express my deepest condolences to the more than 500 people who lost their lives. Owing to people’s great efforts, Japan has not seen massive numbers of deaths or patients in serious condition as have Europe and the U.S.