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Gist of interpellations at Lower, Upper House Committees on Rules and Administration, May 25, 2020

The following is the gist of interpellations at the Committees on Rules and Administration of the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors on May 25, 2020:


Report to the Diet toward the complete lifting of the emergency declaration


Economic Revitalization Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura: Today the government held a meeting of the Advisory Committee on the Basic Action Policy. After comprehensively taking into account the changes in the infection situation, the medical service system, and the monitoring system, approval was granted for the plan to declare the lifting of emergency measures as it is recognized that there is no longer a need to implement them.


The basic response policy, to be revised the same day, sets a transition period after the state of emergency is lifted based on the assumption that people have adapted to a new lifestyle under which they continue to take anti-prevention measures and stipulates that the government’s restrictions on events and outings will be relaxed in stages. The basic policy also calls for continued efforts to thoroughly take basic anti-infection measures even after the state of emergency has been lifted and the implementation of swift and appropriate anti-infection measures if there is a tendency for the virus to spread.


We are still in a situation where we need to remain vigilant, but the latest outbreak is coming to an end. We will try to strike a balance between preventing infection and maintaining socioeconomic activities. We will make all-out efforts to guard against a second wave of the coronavirus by closely cooperating with prefectural governments.


Support for business operators


Yoshio Tezuka (Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan): I heard that some applications for the subsidy program for sustaining businesses (to provide up to two million yen to smaller companies whose sales have decreased) have not been processed.


Nishimura: We started accepting applications on May 1 and have processed some 400,000 applications and disbursed more than 500 billion yen in cash as of May 21. It seems there was a bit of confusion because offices were swamped with applications on May 1. We’d like to ask the economy ministry to provide support to applicants as soon as possible.


Tezuka: Live music venues and gyms remain under the emergency declaration.


Nishimura: If (infection prevention) guidelines become available by the end of May, we’ll start withdrawing our requests for karaoke bars and gyms to suspend operations in June. Live music venues, where an unspecified large number of people use loud voices in enclosed spaces, carry a high risk. But we’re considering setting up a meeting for industry groups and experts. If anti-infection measures are confirmed, we’ll begin withdrawing our requests for them to suspend operations in mid- or late-June. We’ll boost support for business owners taking anti-infection measures by increasing the subsidy program for sustaining businesses from 1.5 million yen to 2 million yen.


Organizing events


Seishi Baba (Liberal Democratic Party): How will the government decide to allow such large-scale events as sports games and concerts to be held again?


Nishimura: Events drawing as many as roughly 1,000 people can be held starting on June 19. The government’s “Go To campaign” (to offer discounts and reward points to promote tourism and events) was approved in the first supplementary budget for the second year of the Reiwa Era, so we’d like to launch preparations for the scheme. We’d like to provide up to 50 million yen as half of the costs necessary for holding concerts, theatrical performances, and kabuki performances that were scheduled to be held on Feb. 1 and afterwards but were forced to be canceled and advertising them to overseas audiences.


Lifting and reimposing the state of emergency  


Yoshitaka Saito (Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan): Would it be possible to declare another state of emergency under the current economic situation?


Nishimura: We don’t know where the virus is hiding and it may emerge suddenly. We will basically apply the same standards we used when issuing the first emergency declaration on April 7, but we will make a decision based on stricter standards in order to prevent an outbreak.


Takanori Kawai (Democratic Party for the People): Won’t the lifting of the state of emergency prompt cross-prefectural travel?


Nishimura: The lifting of the state of emergency does not mean that people can travel across the nation and do whatever they want like before. The movement of people spreads the virus and increases physical contact. I want the public to voluntarily avoid cross-prefectural travel until the end of the month.


Review of the existing law on novel influenza


Takashi Endo (Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party): The first emergency declaration shed light on the fact that the authorities, responsibilities, and roles of the government and municipalities were unclear. The revised law concerning special measures to tackle novel influenza viruses should be amended.


Nishimura: I understand there are some issues that we need to address. We’d like to look into the matter from a broader perspective once the situation settles down.


Tokyo Olympic Games


Endo: It is said that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will decide in October whether or not to hold the Tokyo Olympic Games.


Nishimura: It is my understanding that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did not tell Chairman Bach during a phone call in March that “next summer is the last option to hold the Games.” Also, I heard from the organizing committee that there is no plan to decide in October whether or not to hold the Games.


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