All national papers highlighted remarks made at the Diet yesterday by Health Minister Tamura, who commented on the GOJ’s policy shift on hospitalization for people infected with the novel coronavirus. “In principle, those who have moderate symptoms will be hospitalized,” the cabinet minister was quoted as saying. “But people who are not at a high risk of becoming seriously ill will isolate at home.” The dailies interpreted the remarks to mean that the Suga administration has toned down its original position of only admitting seriously ill patients to hospitals in the face of strong criticism from not only the opposition bloc, the medical community, and local governments but also the ruling coalition that even people suffering from moderate symptoms will be barred from receiving treatment at hospitals. On Thursday, the Health Ministry reportedly updated its instructions for prefectural governments, specifying that the new hospitalization guidelines will only apply to Tokyo and other “hot spots” where the epidemic curve is rising.
The papers said the administration was forced to modify its new policy on hospitalization only a few days later after it was announced on account of its failure to coordinate closely with the ruling coalition and medical professionals. Health Minister Tamura admitted at the parliament yesterday that the ministry had not even consulted with coronavirus taskforce subcommittee Chairman Omi about the new hospitalization policy and apologized for failing to communicate closely with the leading physician and the ruling coalition. Nikkei said this is the third time the administration has shifted course on COVID-related policies in response to complaints from the ruling party as it previously ended up retracting its instructions for banks not to offer loans to eateries who refused to obey the ban on serving alcohol and then nixing its plan to reduce Moderna vaccine shipments to certain municipalities. Sankei wrote the LDP is desperate to strengthen its coronavirus policy coordination with the Suga administration ahead of the general election in the autumn amid the public’s continued disapproval of the GOJ’s response to the pandemic.