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HOME  > Past issues  > 2020 March 25 - 31  > Preparedness for public health emergency undermined under successive LDP governments
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2020 March 25 - 31 [POLITICS]

Preparedness for public health emergency undermined under successive LDP governments

March 26, 2020

Japan’s total number of people infected with COVID-19 has risen day by day, and this increased fear and tension among the general public.

The government’s expert panel on March 19 warned about the possibility of an explosive surge of coronavirus infections. On the other hand, many people were unable to realize the extent to which the virus has spread. This also fuels people’s fears.

In response to an Akahata inquiry about changes in the number of close contacts for each positive COVID-19 case, an official of the Welfare Ministry department in charge of infectious diseases said, “As local governments and public health centers have an insufficient number of staff to deal with infectious diseases, they are too busy to give us a statistical report regarding close contacts and positive cases. So, we have to visit each municipality’s website regularly to obtain the necessary data.”

Successive governments mainly led by the Liberal Democratic Party have pushed forward with austerity measures which include cutbacks in government personnel and budgets for social welfare services under the name of “administrative reform”. They also have weakened the system tasked to protect the public health by insisting that with the decrease in the number of tuberculosis cases, the era of fighting infectious diseases has ended. This, as pointed out even by the expert panel appointed by the government, has led to shortages of staff at public health centers as well as shortages of government workers experienced in the struggle against infections.

Furthermore, over the past year alone, the Prime Minister Abe-led government has introduced policies that weaken the public safety net. On top of this, it seeks to reduce the number of public hospitals.

In 2015, when the controversial national security legislation (aka. war laws) was forcibly established, PM Abe repeatedly stressed the need to implement such measures to improve Japan’s security preparedness by saying, “Well-prepared means no worries.” The ongoing health crisis, however, clearly reveals that it is the successive LDP governments that have undermined the nation's “preparedness” to effectively deal with a public health emergency.

Past related article:
> Welfare Ministry’s cutback list includes designated infectious disease medical institutions [February 27, 2020]
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