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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

[COVID-19] Press Conference by the Prime Minister regarding the Novel Coronavirus

May 28, 2021

[Provisional Translation]

 [Opening Statement]

Just now we held a meeting of the Novel Coronavirus Response Headquarters. As a result of that meeting, it was decided that the declaration of the state of emergency in Hokkaido, Tokyo, Aichi, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo, Okayama, Hiroshima, and Fukuoka Prefectures will be extended until June 20 and the term for implementing priority measures to prevent the spread of disease in Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa, Gifu, and Mie Prefectures, will also be extended to June 20.

The situation does not allow much optimism: on the one hand, the number of new infections nationwide has shifted into an overall decline; on the other hand, the number still continues to trend upwards in some areas. In the Kansai region, the number of new infections continues to decline, and yet the availability of hospital beds is under strain, resulting in an extremely severe situation centered on Osaka and Hyogo. In the Greater Tokyo area, the number of new infections, which had been keeping steady, is now in a downward trend, but Tokyo remains at a Stage 4 level even now. Other areas where the declaration is in effect are also experiencing cases at a high level. Moreover, the number of patients with severe symptoms and those succumbing to the virus both remain elevated nationwide. It is within this context that we made the decision to extend the current state of countermeasures until June 20.

What is alarming is the impact of coronavirus variants. The so-called UK variant accounts for more than 80 percent of cases nationally, and the so-called Indian variant has been confirmed even in people with no history of traveling overseas. As the original virus is increasingly being replaced with variants understood to have high infectivity, we require longer than before until the countermeasures we are implementing lead to a decline in the number of new infections.

We have pressed forward in tackling the virus through the cooperation of the citizens, with the end of May as the termination of the period for which a state of emergency has been declared. This outcome of not having reached the stage for lifting the declaration despite a reduction in the number of new infections demands that we comprehensively implement measures to hold down the spread of infections for a while, in conjunction with accelerating the administration of vaccines. While the repeated extensions have been extremely trying, we consider the next three weeks critically important in producing a successful outcome for our two-front war, in which we mitigate the spread of infections while also administering the vaccines. I ask sincerely for everyone’s understanding and cooperation.

As for concrete measures to mitigate the spread of infections, we will continue to work in cooperation with individual local governments and once more strongly urge such efforts as shortening the operating hours of dining and drinking establishments and suspending the serving of alcohol and the offering of karaoke services. It has long been pointed out that a key point within our measures is reducing the risk of infections at meetings and other gatherings accompanied by dining or drinking alcohol. I wish to convey my wholehearted thanks to everyone who has cooperated with this request for such a long time, and I am deeply conscious of the hardships we have imposed through it.

With many people getting inoculated, we are heading towards bringing infections to an end. In the meanwhile until that happens and we restore the bustling vibrancy that dining and drinking establishments and lodging facilities used to enjoy, we will steadily implement our support measures. We will also continue to listen to the heartfelt voices of the citizens. In light of this extension of the declaration, to safeguard employment, we will continue to implement special measures within our Employment Adjustment Subsidies in July as well. We will also extend our provision of unsecured loans that are interest free in real terms from the Japan Finance Corporation and other institutions for the near term, until the end of 2021 and take all possible liquidity support measures for business operators.

We will reinforce our surveillance of coronavirus variants. We will thoroughly implement our border control measures, including by strengthening our measures through which people entering Japan from India, Pakistan, and Nepal stay at designated facilities. While this stay has until now been six days after entry, we have extended that to ten days after entry, beginning today.

Some areas have held down infections through effective screening and measures. In Fukui Prefecture, the infection routes of 98 percent of persons testing positive for the virus in April have been identified, with an analysis revealing that the cause of 85 percent of those cases has been people conversing without wearing masks. Reflecting this, the wearing of masks while talking, even in dining and drinking establishments and the like, has been thoroughly implemented, tamping down infections to extremely low levels. Given the outcomes achieved by such local areas, the basic countermeasure of wearing a mask whenever conversing, even while dining, is effective.

I ask the public to be cognizant again of the importance of the basic measures of wearing masks, washing our hands, and avoiding the three Cs [of closed spaces, crowded spaces, and close-contact settings], and of wearing a mask when conversing with others, and to be diligent in putting these into practice. These measures remain the same even in the case of coronavirus variants.

Vaccines are our trump card for preventing the spread of infections and turning the tide towards an end of infections. In countries all around the world, the effects of the vaccines have become quite apparent. In addition to vaccinations administered to medical professionals, almost all municipalities around the country have begun inoculating the elderly. Between 400,000 and 500,000 doses are administered daily, with more than 11 million doses given in total thus far. In municipalities nationwide, inoculations are being given at a large number of group vaccination sites as well as at medical institutions. Moreover, in addition to the large-scale vaccination center operated by the Self-Defense Forces that I visited the other day, three prefectures have already established large-scale vaccination centers. Thanks to the cooperation of everyone involved, the great majority of municipalities nationwide plan to finish inoculating the elderly by the end of July. I extend my heartfelt thanks to those in local governments and those in healthcare all around the country.

Moreover, many medical institutions and vaccination centers have been added, with progress seen in many prefectures in establishing large-scale vaccination centers, one after the other. In addition, a sizable number of companies as well as facilities used by J League soccer, professional baseball, and others, and universities around the country have told us they wish to provide a venue, an offer we appreciate greatly. We will press forward with vaccinations to overcome COVID-19 at the earliest possible time. I feel very poignantly that such circles of cooperation are spreading all throughout the country. I once again wish to express my gratitude to the citizens.

At the same time, at vaccination sites nationwide, we still hear that there are not enough human resources to administer the vaccines, as well as the view that additional support is needed to cover vaccination costs. In addition to doctors and nurses, we are now newly having dentists conduct vaccinations, and we are also working to make it possible for paramedics and clinical laboratory technicians to give inoculations, and for pharmacists to cooperate in make diagnoses. The Government will provide solid financial support.  We will undertake any and all efforts we are able to.

Aiming to administer one million doses daily, we will increase the number of doses we administer each day, endeavoring first to inoculate the elderly who desire it. Then, during June, we will also begin broadly inoculating the general public, including people with underlying health conditions, starting from municipalities that have prospects for finishing vaccinations of the elderly, as determined by the state of reservations and other factors. At the same time, we will press forward with vaccinations at workplaces and universities.  We have already secured a sufficient amount of vaccines. We plan to have some 100 million doses of the vaccine supplied by the end of June and secure a further amount of more than 100 million doses by September.

I am aware that many people have expressed unease and concern regarding the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. Taking such views very seriously, we will work in cooperation with relevant parties and advance our efforts towards holding safe and secure Games.

As concrete measures, first of all, we will stringently reduce the number of people coming to Japan. We have narrowed the number down from 180,000 in the initial plan to 78,000, a number less than half of that original figure, and we will keep working to streamline this further. In addition, the athletes participating in the Games and related people will undergo rigorous screening and get inoculated. We will also restrict lodging options and limit transportation to vehicles used exclusively for the Games. We will arrange it so that they do not interact with the general public, and in cases of malicious violation of the rules, we will manage their behavior, including disqualifying athletes from competition. Test events have also been underway, where we have been working hard to implement all possible infection prevention measures. The Government will continue to advance our coordination with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), International Paralympic Committee (IPC), the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Organising Committee, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and work in solid cooperation with them to protect the lives of the citizens.

My Cabinet will do everything in its power to face up to this new challenge we have never encountered before, of accelerating vaccinations while containing the spread of the virus, and restoring as soon as possible our daily lives in which we feel safe and at ease. By concentrating our power, we are absolutely certain to be able to win out over the virus. I myself will stand at the fore and carry this through to completion. I ask once more for the understanding and cooperation of the citizens.

Thank you very much.


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