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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

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

June 17, 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 as of June 20, we will lift the declaration of the state of emergency in Hokkaido, Tokyo, Aichi, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo, Okayama, Hiroshima, and Fukuoka Prefectures, while in Okinawa we will extend until July 11 the period the declaration is in effect. We also decided that priority measures to prevent the spread of disease will newly come into effect until July 11 in Hokkaido, Tokyo, Aichi, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo, and Fukuoka Prefectures, while those measures will be extended until July 11 in Saitama, Chiba, and Kanagawa Prefectures. Priority measures will end on June 20 in Gifu and Mie Prefectures.

Nationally, the number of new infections has continued to decline since mid-May. In most prefectures, the number of new infections has dropped to below the Stage 4 level. The number of patients with severe symptoms also continues to decline nationwide, and hospital bed capacity has been improving without a doubt. That said, in some areas we are seeing the number of new infections failing to fall any further, and it has been pointed out that because of coronavirus variants, infections may be spreading more rapidly than they did before.

Under these circumstances, what we must be most cautious about going forward is not triggering a large-scale rebound. The important thing is to continue implementing countermeasures with a high sense of vigilance, keeping the rise in the number of new infections in check to the greatest possible extent, while at the same time pressing forward with inoculating as soon as possible those wanting to receive a vaccination, so as not to precipitate a collapse of the medical care system.

It is for that reason that we will put priority measures to prevent the spread of disease into effect for three weeks in seven prefectures including Tokyo and Osaka and extend the declaration of the state of emergency in Okinawa, where the number of new infections remains above the level for Stage 4.

Although it is extremely regrettable to continue to ask many people to shoulder restrictions, I ask sincerely for your understanding and cooperation so that we can restore our daily lives in which we feel at ease.

In the area where the declaration of the state of emergency has just been extended, we will continue with the measures already in place. In the areas subject to priority measures, we will also continue to take measures centered on eating and drinking, and we ask dining and drinking establishments to shorten their operating hours to close at 8 PM. We will permit alcohol to be served until 7 PM in establishments meeting requirements, including thoroughly taking steps to mitigate infections. However, beyond that, at the discretion of the prefectures, we will also make it possible to request that alcohol be suspended, in line with the state of infections. Even amid protracted restrictions on eating and drinking, we will press forward with effective measures.

Also, regarding capacity limitations for sports and other events, while the priority measures are in effect, we will set a maximum capacity of 5,000 attendees, the same as what has been in effect until now, after which time we will request strict restrictions for one month, during which we will establish transitional measures capping attendance at 10,000 people.

We will continue to implement measures with a high degree of vigilance. Should we see any indication that medical care is coming under strain because of a reemerging spread of infections, we will deal with the situation agilely, including by strengthening our response measures, such as by suspending the serving of alcohol across the board or placing tighter restrictions on the holding of events.

I ask all of you to thoroughly implement the basic infection countermeasures of wearing a mask, washing your hands, and avoiding the three Cs [of closed spaces, crowded spaces, and close-contact settings]. Especially, I make a heartfelt request for your cooperation in preventing infections by wearing a mask when engaging in conversation.

The administration of vaccines has increased by a total of 7.3 million doses over the past week, a pace of more than 1 million per day on average. The cumulative total of doses administered has surpassed 27 million, with more than 20 million people having received at least one dose. From the bottom of my heart I thank the local governments, the medical practitioners, and many others for their cooperation.

At the recent G7 Summit, I discussed a wide range of matters with the other leaders. Regarding COVID-19, the other leaders all reported engaging in repeated trial and error as they worried about how to reconcile coronavirus countermeasures with the economy, and that ultimately it was thanks to vaccine administration making headway that the situation improved significantly.

We expect we will have administered over 40 million doses by the end of this month, and we have been informed that all municipalities are on track to finish administering the second dose to all elderly persons desiring it by the end of July. As a result, we expect the incidence of patients with severe symptoms, which has centered on the elderly, to decrease dramatically, considerably reducing the burdens on medical care as well.

Administration of the vaccines at companies and universities is also scheduled to start in earnest from the 21st. It has also been pointed out that the proportion of elderly people and of medical practitioners within the number of new infections has already declined. There were 501 cases of new infections in Tokyo yesterday. Among them, 33 were people aged 65 or older, whereas 240 infections -- almost half the total number ? were people in their 20s and 30s. Some have also noted that we need to pay attention to a spread of infections among the younger generations, so, going forward, the Government will work together to provide inoculations to all those desiring them, including young people.

Yesterday, the ordinary session of the Diet was concluded. This Diet session opened while a declaration of a state of emergency was in effect and spanned 150 days as we battled continuously with COVID-19.

Thanks to cooperation from legislators in both the ruling and opposition parties, we succeeded in the early enactment of the amendment of the special measures law on the novel coronavirus, making it possible to flexibly undertake effective measures to counter infections. We also passed the third supplementary budget, aimed at protecting businesses and employment and supporting those facing difficulties. As for payments made to dining and drinking establishments in exchange for cooperating with our requests, we have received many comments that these payments have been slow to reach the affected establishments. The Government will act in close cooperation with local governments to make progress that enables the swift payment of these funds. Even while placing such responses to this infectious disease as our highest priority, in this Diet session we have realized various reforms in order to deliver solutions to longstanding issues.

On September 1, the agency in charge of digital transformation will be launched. We will get rid of bureaucratic sectionalism and carry out bold regulatory reforms to bring about a society in which people outside the major urban areas can receive the same services as those in the cities. We successfully promoted the taking of childcare leave by men and realized a maximum of 35 students per elementary school class, a major reform achieved after 40 years. Fertility treatments for which the subsidy amount was substantially expanded began this past January. We will make these treatments covered by public health insurance starting in April 2022. We enacted an amendment to the Health Insurance Act to limit the increases in the burden shouldered by the young and have elderly with a certain amount of income or more pay 20 percent of their medical expenses. This is a major step forward towards a social security system in which all generations can feel at ease, and we will continue to advance reforms going forward. Moreover, we enacted a bill on surveilling important plots of land and other sites and the law on national referenda, both long-pending issues. I am truly grateful to all those who extended their cooperation towards the passage of this large number of bills and budgets.

In the area of diplomacy, the international community is facing a wide range of issues that include COVID-19, climate change, economic recovery, and competition with authoritarianism. Against that backdrop, we will promote global unity and lead the world in shaping the post-COVID-19 international order. Regarding the Indo-Pacific Ocean, Japan has stood at the fore and strategically advanced efforts to realize a “free and open Indo-Pacific.” After convening the first-ever summit meeting among the leaders of Japan, Australia, India, and the United States in March, I visited the U.S. in April as the first foreign leader to do so since the Biden administration was inaugurated, whereupon we demonstrated powerfully to the international community the strong bonds of the Japan-U.S. Alliance. At the recent G7 Summit in the UK too, I was warmly welcomed as a member of the team that shares the universal values of freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, and we affirmed the unity among the leaders through our candid exchanges of views. The outcome of our discussions was solidly reflected in the G7 Leaders’ Communique.

As for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, the G7 expressed their support for holding the Games, a point that was also included in the G7 Leaders’ Communique. It is said that some four billion people around the globe will watch the Games on TV or other means. The Games will be an opportunity to send out to the world a message showing our recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake and to convey dreams and profound emotions to children. At the Tokyo Games held 57 years ago, the name “Paralympics” was used for the very first time, and I consider those Games to have become a turning point for those with disabilities to be dynamically engaged in society. Here in Tokyo once again, I want the Games to be a means of squarely communicating the importance of being able to overcome barriers through one’s efforts, and the barrier-free spirit of the heart, working towards the realization of a synergistic society in which all people, including people with disabilities and those without, and the elderly and young alike, coexist, helping one another. Now, with humankind facing the major challenge of COVID-19, I want to send out from Japan to the world the message of the world uniting and overcoming this crisis through people’s efforts and wisdom. To do that, I consider it absolutely vital to hold the Tokyo Games in a safe and secure manner and also to hold down the spread of infections within Japan while the Games are underway, and to have that tie in to preventing the spread of infections even after the Games are over. I hope you will cheer on the athletes, viewing the Games on TV at home or through other means.

Tomorrow, we will decide on the Basic Policy on Economic and Fiscal Management and Reform 2021, the first since my Cabinet assumed office. We will expeditiously create a society with peace of mind and a robust economy, both appropriate for the post-COVID-19 era. The Government will take the lead in swiftly securing hospital bed capacity and medical personnel, rapidly establishing legislative measures to bring about the early practical application of therapeutic medicines and vaccines, and preparing a resilient system that is unwavering in the face of infectious diseases. We will advance reforms with a sense of speed, taking the four areas of green, digital, creating vibrant communities, and addressing the declining birth rate as driving factors for growth.

Japan’s skies and seas, notably the waters surrounding the Senkaku Islands, are in unprecedented circumstances, being under the most acute tension of anywhere in the world. We will reinforce our necessary security capabilities and defense capacity and fully defend our territory, territorial waters, and airspace.

At the start of this Diet session, I stated that I will restore peace of mind to my fellow citizens and make their hopes a reality. We will make all-out efforts in the two-front war of preventing infections while administering vaccines and restore daily lives in which we feel at ease at the earliest possible time.

Also, by delivering solutions to longstanding challenges and creating a robust post-COVID-19 economy, we will deliver hope. This is the mission of the Cabinet that works for the people, and we will work wholeheartedly towards that end. I ask for the understanding and the cooperation of the people.

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