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Editorial: Latest emergency extension exposes Japan govt’s irresponsible short-termism

  • August 18, 2021
  • , The Mainichi
  • English Press

The central government has expanded its coronavirus state of emergency declaration to a further seven prefectures including Fukuoka, and delayed its end date again, to Sept. 12.


The current rate of daily new infections nationally has reached around 20,000, and numbers of patients with severe COVID-19 symptoms are at record highs. With no end to the outbreak in sight, extending the state of emergency was the natural course of action.


There are two problems here: One, Japan still has no effective virus countermeasures, and two, the government is irresponsibly resorting to the same state of emergency extend-and-expand policy over and over again.


The proportion of transmissions occurring within households has increased recently. To prevent infections within families, it is desirable that people be sent to recovery accommodations as soon as possible. But many are forced to stay at home, and some of these have even taken a sudden turn for the worse and died while waiting for a spot to open up. To create more recovery accommodation facilities where patients’ health can be monitored in one place, the government and local authorities should exercise their full powers.


There also have to be serious efforts to stop the spread of infections themselves. The government has this time called on department stores and other large-scale retail spaces to put caps on the number of people who can enter, but the policy is too late. Last month, experts were saying there should be a review of whether these places should be asked to close temporarily.


The messaging to gain cooperation from the people is also insufficient.


When Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga previously announced he was extending this fourth coronavirus state of emergency to the end of August, he told a press conference: “I am resolved that this time should be the last.”


But he has been forced into repeated extensions. When asked about his responsibility for this, Suga fudged, saying: “My responsibility is to work fully toward solving the problems in front of us.”


He does not acknowledge that the government’s projections and countermeasures have underestimated the situation, and just emphasizes the effects of vaccines and new medicinal treatments. The people cannot be convinced by these displays.


The more infectious delta strain is spreading, and a strategy reliant on vaccines cannot catch up with it. At a time when a comprehensive response from the government is needed, it is a serious problem that it can only deal with issues in front of its nose.


Opposition parties are calling for an extraordinary Diet session. Isn’t now the time for ruling and opposition parties to discuss how to overcome the present dilemmas? If funds are needed to bolster the coronavirus response, they can quickly compile a supplementary budget.


Next month will bring the Liberal Democratic Party’s presidential election, and October marks the limit on the current House of Representatives term. The prime minister, who is seeking to extend his time in office, is said to be looking into dissolving the lower house immediately after the closing of the Tokyo Paralympic Games.


That coronavirus countermeasures are affected by the political situation is a reversal of priorities. What should come first and foremost is the protection of the people’s lives.

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