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HOME  > Past issues  > 2021 July 28 - August 3  > Expansion of COVID state of emergency indicates PM Suga’s lack of sense of crisis
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2021 July 28 - August 3 TOP3 [POLITICS]

Expansion of COVID state of emergency indicates PM Suga’s lack of sense of crisis

August 1, 2021

Akahata editorial

The Prime Minister Suga-led government announced that in addition to Tokyo and Okinawa which are currently placed under the COVID state of emergency, Osaka and three other prefectures will newly enter states of emergency. The government also decided to apply quasi-emergency measures to five prefectures, including Kyoto and Hokkaido. The number of daily new cases nationwide topped 10,000 on July 29 and the number of cases reported in Tokyo exceeded 4,000 on July 31. Experts sounded an alarm about the unexpectedly rapid spread of infections. The biggest problem is that PM Suga has no real sense of crisis regarding the current situation. Suga encourages unfounded optimism by sending a false message of relative safety with the forcible opening of the Tokyo Olympic Games. In order to overcome the crisis, it is vital to change the government policy drastically.

It is PM Suga who should have sense of crisis

The Health and Welfare Ministry’s COVID-19 Advisory Board expert panel pointed out that if Tokyo sees no sign of a decrease in new COVID-19 infections, it will face a situation in which many lives that can be saved will not be saved. The expert panel also expressed concern that a similar situation could occur in the entire Tokyo metropolitan area. It said that the biggest problem at present is that the government and the general public have yet to come to share a sense of crisis.

PM Suga, however, at a press conference on July 30 said, “It is vital for the general public to have a sense of crisis,” making it sound like someone else’s problem. It is PM Suga who fails to share any sense of crisis with the general public.

PM Suga, without showing any intent to cancel the Summer Games, sticks to the policy of carrying on with the world’s largest sporting event while requesting the general public to refrain from non-essential outings. Such an inconsistent stance makes it extremely difficult to convince the general public to comply with the request.

The head of the government panel on COVID-19 countermeasures, Omi Shigeru, as factors for the current surge in infections, cited the holding of the Tokyo Games along with “COVID fatigue” and the widespread appearance of the delta variant. The view that the holding of the Games plays a part in spreading infections is widely shared among many experts.

Nevertheless, PM Suga still claims that the Tokyo Olympics is not a factor behind the present COVID-19 spike. Each time a Japanese athlete won a gold medal, Suga expressed his congratulations on his Twitter account while never mentioning the surging number of coronavirus cases. It was only on the evening of July 30 that he first mentioned the pandemic after the start of the Olympics as he had to announce the extension of the state of emergency period.

He did not even show up at both houses' rules and administration committee meetings where the extension of the state of emergency was explained, leaving the issue up to relevant ministers as always. At a press conference held to announce the extension, he could not squarely respond to questions from reporters. Asked why infections are jumping sharply under the state of emergency, he just gave optimistic views such as, "The movement of people is being contained," and "The infection among the elderly is being suppressed thanks to the vaccination rollout." In reality, however, the movement of people in Tokyo areas is not declining as intended, and it is obvious that all generations cannot receive the COVID-19 vaccine in time before a possible fifth wave. Asked about his own responsibility for letting the virus spread, he defiantly responded that his responsibility is to deter infections.

Gov't must fulfill its commitment

Nothing is more harmful than the government leader encouraging groundless optimism. The government must explain what is really happening to the general public. It must speed up the vaccine rollout, conduct large-scale PCR tests, adequately compensate business owners who are meeting the government business-suspension request, and provide support for medical institutions. In addition, politicians must take every possible measure to cancel the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Only after the government carries out the responsibilities it must fulfill can the general public become conscious of the need to meet the government stay-home request and to cooperate in infection deterrence. PM Suga does not express alarm at the ongoing crisis. He should not maintain such a nonchalant position as the prime minister.
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