The following is the gist of interpellations at the budget committee meeting of the House of Councillors on March 19, 2021:
Renho (Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan): Is the lifting of the state of emergency in Tokyo and three of its neighboring prefectures the right decision at a time when there are signs of a slight increase in new infection cases in Tokyo and other areas?
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga: We believe it’s going to be all right. There is a significant fall in infections from when the government declared the state of emergency and the occupancy rate for hospital beds fell to less than 40% in Chiba Prefecture. We will definitely prevent a rebound by implementing five comprehensive measures (including preventive measures at restaurants and bars and improved monitoring of variants).
Renho: Will the government pay cooperation money to restaurants and bars, which will be asked to make continued efforts to shorten business hours?
Economic Revitalization Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura: We will provide 40,000 yen a day to each establishment. It can be raised to 60,000 to 70,000 yen for large-scale businesses.
Hisatake Sugi (Komeito): I want the government to continue taking anti-infection measures to live up to the public’s expectations.
Suga: It is true that there are fears of a potential resurgence. We are making arrangements for patients to recuperate effectively in case there is a rebound in the number of new cases.
Toranosuke Katayama (Nippon Ishin [Japan Innovation Party]): Will the government issue another emergency declaration if there is a rebound?
Suga: We will thoroughly take measures so as not to issue another declaration.
Takanori Kawai (Democratic Party for the People): Why did the government lift the declaration despite an increase in the effective reproduction number?
Economic Revitalization Minister Nishimura: We made a comprehensive judgment and experts agreed with it.
Yoshiki Yamashita (Japanese Communist Party): The government vowed to raise the rate of positive tests to be screened for variants to 40%. I want the rate to be raised higher.
Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare Norihisa Tamura: Forty percent is the maximum. We will detect [variants] quickly to prevent them from spreading.
Data leakage from LINE app
Hiroshi Yamada (Liberal Democratic Party): The government should stop using the app for the time being.
Suga: Government agencies are not supposed to use services provided via the internet when dealing with confidential information. We are again checking the usage of apps [in the government].
TEPCO’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant
Michihiro Ishibashi (Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan): It is an anomaly that the malfunction of the system to detect intruders was left unaddressed.
Suga: It is an act that undermines the trust of the local community. This inevitably leads people to harbor doubts about Tokyo Electric Power Company and its qualification to run nuclear power plants. TEPCO needs to sincerely respond to inspections by the Nuclear Regulation Authority and take drastic measures to improve its systematic management functions.
Tokyo Electric Power Company President Tomoaki Kobayakawa: It’s extremely regrettable that the incident happened when TEPCO had been working to reform itself since the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The incident caused a great deal of anxiety to the local community and society and significantly undermined trust.
Ishibashi: Can nuclear power plant operations be entrusted to TEPCO?
Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Toyoshi Fuketa: The incident is truly grave and serious and this makes an investigation into the cause of the incident all the more important. We want to investigate and analyze how top management recognized and understood the incident.
Situation in Myanmar
Ishibashi: The international community should unite.
Suga: We are lodging a strong protest against continued violence directed at civilians. We will play our own role since we have a host of communication channels with the Myanmar military and others and will closely cooperate with relevant countries. (Abridged)