Japan’s PM committed to tackling COVID-19 as Omicron cases surge

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Xinhua News

17th January 2022 – (Tokyo) Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Monday said he was committed to tackling the COVID-19 virus in Japan amid the rampant spread of the Omicron variant of the virus.

In his first policy speech at the start of a 150-day regular Diet session, Kishida, describing the virus as “more formidable” than first thought, called on the public’s cooperation in containing the spread of the virus.

He also vowed to do more to combat the virus by expediting the rollout of booster shots and vaccinating children.

Kishida pledged that medical provisions would be made available for increasing numbers of those with severe symptoms, who might require hospitalization.

“I myself have heard Japanese people saying ‘Not again. Can’t take it anymore.’ But we have to be mindful that the invisible enemy is much more formidable than has been anticipated,” Kishida said in his policy speech.

“Once again, I ask for your cooperation. Let us overcome this national crisis,” the prime minister, who took office in October, said.

The government is reportedly considering declaring a quasi-state of emergency for Tokyo and three nearby prefectures of Saitama, Chiba, and Kanagawa, with Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno saying on Monday that new infections are spreading at an “unprecedented rate.”

On Sunday, the Tokyo metropolitan government reported more than 4,000 new cases, and the almost 20 percent hospital occupancy rate is the local government’s criterion to request the central government declare stricter antiviral measures.

“We need to avoid an emergency situation in which the number of patients with severe symptoms spikes due to an unexpected surge in infections and hospital beds are scarce,” Kishida said.

Also during his 40-minute speech the Japanese prime minister referenced his ambitions for achieving a carbon neutral society for Japan.

Referring to the situation as one of the “the biggest challenges” to tackle, Kishida told parliament that Japan remained committed to bring carbon dioxide emissions to net zero by 2050 to address climate change.

“We will at least double investment in efforts to realize a carbon-neutral society as soon as possible and create an engine for achieving decarbonization and growth for a new era,” said Kishida.

During the parliamentary session an early passage of a record 107.60 trillion yen (940 billion U.S. dollars) budget will be sought to prop up the nation’s battered economy, he said. 

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