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HOME  > Past issues  > 2021 March 17 - 23  > State of emergency lifted despite 1K new COVID positives daily
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2021 March 17 - 23 TOP3 [POLITICS]

State of emergency lifted despite 1K new COVID positives daily

March 20, 2021
Akahata editorial (excerpts)

The Suga government on March 21 lifted the COVID-19 state of emergency in Tokyo, Chiba, Saitama, and Kanagawa prefectures. With this, all prefectures in Japan will be free from imposing an emergency situation. However, the number of infections has ceased to decrease in recent days, and cases of coronavirus variants which are said to be highly transmissible are increasing. The 2.5-month-long state of emergency could not contain the pandemic, representing the failure of the Suga government's anti-coronavirus measures. What is lacking in the government countermeasures is a comprehensive testing strategy.

Cluster outbreaks at nursing homes and medical institutions are the main cause in bringing the decrease in the number of infections to a stop. The government should conduct periodic testing as a state project of all staff members working at these facilities as well as care receivers and inpatients, and not leave this responsibility to local municipalities.

The government says it is planning to carry out 10,000 monitoring tests per day in order to grasp the extent of the spread of COVID-19. However, this number is so small that the government should increase a target number to more than 100,000.

Regarding new coronavirus variants, the government says that the rate of variant tests to be conducted on COVID-positive people will increase to 40% from the current 10%. However, some experts point out that it is necessary to increase the rate to at least 50% to obtain a realistic picture of what is really happening. The government should urgently conduct variant testing on all COVID-positive people.

The government continues neglecting to compensate medical facilities for COVID-caused losses in earnings. In order to be well-prepared for a next wave of COVID-19 infections, compensation to make up for losses in earnings is essential.

The government and local municipalities will keep restrictions on operating hours of drinking/eating establishments even after the lifting of the state of emergency. The restriction on closing time will be eased to 9 p.m. from the current 8 p.m. Accordingly, government compensation to these establishments will be reduced to 40,000 yen a day from the current 60,000 yen. The government never listens to the demands of small business owners who are calling for an extension of the compensation measure, grants to sustain businesses, and subsidies to support rent based on the size of businesses. It is unacceptable for the government to scale down COVID-related support programs along with the removal of the state of emergency.

The Tokyo metropolitan government on March 18, based on the special measures law on the coronavirus pandemic which was revised in February, issued an order with penalties attached to some restaurants for not complying with the government request to shorten business hours. Owners receiving the order criticize the administration for unilaterally forcing them to be patient with only an unreasonably insufficient amount in compensation.

The central government should stop only forcing the general public to be patient and should instead implement comprehensive testing measures into practice in order to contain the pandemic.
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