Skip to main content

Home >  News >  Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister >  July 2021 >  [COVID-19] Press Conference by the Prime Minister regarding the Novel Coronavirus

Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

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

July 8, 2021

[Provisional translation]

 [Opening Statement]

The mudslides that occurred in the city of Atami in Shizuoka Prefecture on the third of this month have resulted in nine confirmed deaths thus far in addition to an enormous amount of other damage. Damage is also arising in various locations nationwide. I express my sincere condolences for those who lost their lives and my heartfelt sympathy to all those who have been affected by the disaster.

We have received reports that in Atami there are more than 20 people whose safety has not yet been confirmed even now. Police, firefighters, and members of the Japan Coast Guard and Self-Defense Forces are going all out in conducting relief activities through a system coordinating more than 2,000 people. We will continue to do our very utmost to rescue people swiftly and provide support for the disaster victims.

Just now we held a meeting of the Novel Coronavirus Response Headquarters, whereupon we took the decision to declare a state of emergency in Tokyo and extend the declaration of a state of emergency in Okinawa, with each of these in effect until August 22. We also decided to extend the application of priority measures to prevent the spread of disease in Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa, and Osaka Prefectures until August 22, while Hokkaido, Aichi, Kyoto, Hyogo, and Fukuoka Prefectures will finish implementing those measures on July 11.

We have kept measures in place from early April, but recently, substantial progress has been made in administering vaccines, and in many locations around the country there have been ongoing declines in the number of new cases of infection. The number of patients with severe symptoms has also decreased significantly, and we are hearing from medical facilities that there has been a reduction in the burden they have been shouldering. I wish to express my heartfelt appreciation to people working in our local governments as well as to our medical workers.

But against such a background, unfortunately, the number of new infections in the Greater Tokyo area has shifted into a definite increase. One factor, in addition to the flow of people remaining at a high level, is the effect of the Delta strain, a new coronavirus variant, which has been noted as having infectivity 1.5 times that of the Alpha variant. There are concerns that the Delta variant will spread rapidly.

At the same time, definite changes can be seen within the state of infections compared to the situation until now. In Tokyo, where the administration of vaccinations has reached 70 percent among the elderly, who are said to have a high risk of developing severe symptoms, the percentage of the elderly among all cases of infection, which had surpassed 20 percent at one time, has dropped to roughly 5 percent. Consequently, even as the number of new cases of infection has increased, the number of patients with severe symptoms and the hospital bed occupancy ratio have remained at low levels, with for example the hospital bed occupancy ratio for patients with severe symptoms remaining within the range of 30 to 40 percent.

However, the spread of infections in Tokyo is something that could expand nationwide. A large number of people are expected to travel to areas outside the major urban centers during the summer vacation and Obon holiday periods. With administration of the vaccine making significant progress and an end to this chapter of our battle against COVID-19 now in view, at this juncture, we absolutely must avoid once again triggering a spread of infections with Tokyo as the starting point. True to that thinking, we have decided to implement precautionary measures in advance, and made the decision to once again issue a declaration of a state of emergency in Tokyo.

We have put these measures into effect until August 22, after the Obon holiday period finishes, but if the effects of the vaccines become even more apparent and improvements are seen in hospital bed capacity and other indicators, we will also take the decision to lift the declaration earlier than scheduled.

I find it truly regrettable to place various burdens on the people by declaring a state of emergency again three weeks since the previous declaration was lifted. But we undertake this in the determination to overcome this period and absolutely recapture our daily lives in which we feel at ease.

In concrete terms, in Tokyo and Okinawa, in order to contain in particular the infection risk caused by dining and drinking, we will suspend the serving of alcohol across the board at dining and drinking establishments. The serving of alcohol will also be suspended as a rule in the areas where priority measures to prevent the spread of disease are in effect, with decisions on this to be taken in accordance with local circumstances.

It has been pointed out that there has been an increasing number of dining and drinking establishments not cooperating with the rules on curtailing operating hours or on serving alcohol due to delays in the payments made to the said establishments in exchange for their cooperation with such requests. In addition, we have also heard the comment that for many dining and drinking establishments, the serving of alcohol is an issue of life or death for them to continue to operate. To ensure that delays in payments do not directly link to managerial issues, we will swiftly settle outstanding payments for cooperation given until now after a simplified screening, and we will make it possible to render these payments in advance to dining and drinking establishments that will cooperate with our upcoming measures. At the same time, we will from now expand our patrols of dining and drinking establishments in each of the relevant prefectures, thereby boosting the effectiveness of the measures.

Eating and drinking accompanied by alcohol invariably lengthens the time that masks are removed, and talking with each other in loud voices is also unavoidable. Although it is extremely regrettable to make repeated requests of those at dining and drinking establishments, I ask for their kind cooperation at this juncture.

In addition, in Tokyo, the number of infections has risen dramatically among people between their 20s and their 50s, and among people in their 40s and 50s, the number of patients with severe symptoms is also increasing. Infections in the workplace and within households have also become notable. I ask that everyone thoroughly carry out the basic precautionary measures of wearing masks, washing their hands, and avoiding the three Cs [of closed spaces, crowded spaces, and close-contact settings], and that especially they wear masks when talking with others.

The acceleration of our vaccine administration is making progress all around the nation. Thanks to support from those involved in local governments, medical care, and so on, it is said that Japan is now inoculating people at the fastest pace anywhere in the world, with more than nine million doses being administered each week. The cumulative total number of doses since we began inoculations in earnest a little more than two months ago has surpassed 54 million. Seventy-two percent of elderly people and 27 percent of everyone nationwide have already completed their first dose.

It has also been pointed out that in countries where vaccine administration got underway early, a declining trend in the number of cases of infection was clearly seen from roughly the time that the percentage of people receiving one dose of the vaccine reached 40 percent of the population. If we continue at the current pace, by the end of this month, we will finish vaccinating with the second dose all elderly persons desiring it, and the number of people who will have received at least one dose is expected to reach 40 percent of everyone nationwide.

Meanwhile, with inoculations progressing at a pace exceeding our forecasts, there are some local governments and others saying that they do not have a sufficient amount of vaccines. Overall, 90 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine were distributed until last month to local governments around the country, in accordance with the size of the population. Of those, we estimate that 40 million doses have not yet been used and have been stockpiled. Beyond that, 25 million doses will be distributed monthly from July to September. For these reasons, if we use them together with those held in inventory, we will be able to continue providing vaccinations at a pace of 1.2 million doses per day.

As for how the vaccines will be distributed, we will work to make their administration progress smoothly. Specifically, from next month, we will review the current system so that we can distribute a greater amount of vaccines to those municipalities making progress in administering them, and we will also indicate as early as possible the amount of vaccines that will be distributed.

Besides this, we have secured 14 million doses of the Moderna vaccine thus far, with an additional 36 million doses to be obtained by September. With regard to inoculations using these, which are taking place at companies, universities, and the like, as of last week, two million doses had been administered. We will promptly examine the contents of the applications we received [to become vaccination administration sites] and be certain to respond.

We have caused great worry for many people, but in this way, by September, we will have secured 220 million doses, a sufficient amount to make vaccination possible for all citizens who desire it. We will do everything in our power to administer vaccines swiftly.

There are two weeks left until the opening of the Olympic Games. With the declaration of a state of emergency, this holding of the Games has become out of the ordinary. National teams and persons involved with the Games are now entering Japan from overseas. In addition to the testing done twice before entry and once at the time of entry to Japan, athletes undergo daily screening even after entering the country, so we are thoroughly guarding against the inflow of the virus to Japan. A large portion of the athletes and the persons involved with the Games have completed their vaccinations, and their actions are restricted to their designated hotels and outside locations that have been submitted in advance. Their movements are thus managed in a way that they do not interact with people in the general public.

Regarding the Tokyo Games, I have been saying until now that should a state of emergency be declared, I was prepared even to have no spectators in attendance. It is against that backdrop that after this press conference concludes, during a consultation meeting among the five parties of the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and so on, the handling of spectators is scheduled to be decided. The Olympic and Paralympic Games, said to be viewed on television by four billion people around the globe, have the power to unite the hearts of people the world over. Now more than ever as we face the enormous hardship of COVID-19 do we want to send out from Tokyo the messages of the world being able to come together as one and of being able to overcome hardships thanks to the efforts and wisdom of humankind as a whole.

In addition, Tokyo will become the first city in history to host the Paralympic Games twice. I also hope to firmly convey the mindset of being barrier-free in one’s heart, which will help bring about an inclusive society in which those with disabilities and those without, and both the elderly and the young, live together, helping each other.

This year’s Games will have a large number of restrictions, making them different from the Games held until now, but that is exactly why we want to succeed in holding safe and secure Games and bring to full fruition historic Games that give dreams and hopes to children, who will live in the future.

Since last year, measures to counter infections have been an ongoing series of one step forward and one step back, each time inconveniencing the public. For me too, this battle against an unknown enemy never allows the chance to feel at ease. And yet, thanks to the vaccines, we are largely able to prevent the onset of symptoms and the development of severe symptoms, even in the case of virus variants. There has also been progress in the development of therapeutic medications.

What is essential now is for as many people as possible to be inoculated as we suppress infections. I believe that by doing so, we will bring this battle against COVID-19 to an end and without a doubt be able to restore our daily lives in which we can feel at ease. I sincerely ask all of you for your understanding and cooperation.


Page Top

Related Link