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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

September 2, 2020 (AM)

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Simultaneous interpretation services for this video are provided by a third party.

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]

REPORTER: I have a question related to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) announced that over 50,000 people have either been dismissed from their jobs or not had their contracts renewed due to the spread of COVID-19 infections. I understand that the Government is implementing various measures, including extending the expiration date of the Employment Adjustment Subsidies. Nevertheless, employment conditions remain severe, particularly for those in non-permanent employment, those in the tourism industry, or those in areas whose manufacturing sectors have been impacted. Please share your recognition of the current situation and whether or not it is necessary to strengthen related measures.
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, the Government has enhanced the Employment Adjustment Subsidies, including raising the upper limit to 15,000 yen per day, simplified procedures, and taken measures to ensure expeditious disbursement, thereby strongly supporting efforts by business operators to maintain employment. Thus far, we have approved the disbursement of subsidies in around 880,000 cases, totaling approximately 1.1 trillion. Furthermore, in light of the current severe conditions, we will extend such special measures to the end of December. In addition, for those who have unavoidably lost their jobs, we are providing attentive support for reemployment, based on their specific circumstances.
REPORTER: […] The first meeting of the Working Group on Prejudice, Discrimination and Privacy, under the government’s subcommittee (on COVID-19 countermeasures) was held yesterday, and there was a report about incidents of defamation and discriminatory acts targeting COVID-19 patients occurring across the country. Please share your comments on what kinds of measures the Government should formulate for preventing prejudice and discrimination against infections.
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The working group you just mentioned will assess the situation in terms of prejudice and discrimination against patients and others, and hold discussions from the viewpoint of balancing respect for personal privacy and preventing the spread of infections. Based on those discussions, the relevant ministries and agencies will work together to formulate the necessary measures. That is what has been reported to me.
REPORTER: I have a question in relation to COVID-19. At yesterday’s press conference, I asked about screening capacity and you answered with the figures as of August 7. Almost a month has passed since then, so does the Government not have more up-to-date numbers?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Yesterday, I made an explanation not only on the capacity of PCR screenings but also antigen tests at testing institutions, based on the announcement made by MHLW on August 7, which is based on the screening capacity of PCR analyses and antigen tests as well as production capacity from manufacturers’ information. Regarding PCR screenings, the Government does have the latest numbers as MHLW announces them daily on its website. Meanwhile, the numbers on antigen tests are based on the information provided by manufacturers. I provided my explanation based on the most recently confirmed number.
REPORTER: I believe that the Government will use antigen tests more and more frequently going forward. Therefore, if those numbers are not updated on a timely basis, it could hinder efforts to review responses. Do you think there is any room for improvement in this regard?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: We are asking companies to adjust their production capacity, among other efforts. In that regard, the Government recently officially announced the target capacity of 200,000. At this point in time, we are not monitoring capacity on a daily basis but, from the longer perspective, the order has been placed in preparation for the seasonal influenza period.
REPORTER: […] Recently, a tanker was involved in an accident off the coast of Mauritius. This resulted in an oil spill and other impacts, causing harm to the surrounding environment. The Government of Japan has already dispatched the Japan Disaster Relief (JDR) Team and other personnel. What kinds of additional assistance is the Government considering?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: First of all, as you just mentioned, the Government has been responding to the situation by dispatching the JDR Team, and providing the necessary materials and equipment, among other efforts. We recognize that the challenges for recovery and reconstruction of the areas and communities affected by this incident include not only preventing the spread of the spilled oil and removing it, but also ecological recovery and a wide range of socio-economic aspects. Japan will provide thorough, long-term assistance, encompassing these various aspects, while continuing to work together with the relevant countries.
REPORTER: I have a question on security in East Asia. China possesses several missiles whose ranges encompass Japan, and it has been pointed out that this may result in an arms race, which is something that Japan and the United States are trying to counterbalance. Does Japan intend to engage the United States and China and call for missile disarmament in East Asia?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Trends in China’s defense policies and military capabilities are matters of major concern for Japan. The circumstances that you have pointed out directly affect the security of East Asia, including Japan, and we are therefore monitoring the situation with great concern. From that perspective, it is important to ensure a security environment that is desirable for Japan and hold in-depth discussions on how best to ensure arms control, including improving transparency in the region. Japan will continue to coordinate closely with the United States to that end.
REPORTER: […] one case of COVID-19 infection has been confirmed aboard a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer that was bound for the Middle East for information-gathering activities. The dispatch of the vessel itself has been postponed. However, it has been pointed out that the impact of the delay in its rotation with another vessel and the potential spread of infections onboard the vessel while at sea are extremely dangerous. Please tell us whether you see any faults with this response and what actions the Government will take going forward.
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, I have received a report that JS MURASAME has already returned to port in Yokosuka, and that the infected person has been admitted to a medical institution. Furthermore, we are currently taking steps to prevent the spread of infections, including confirming, through a public health center, which people have been in close contact with the person in question, and, for personnel who shared the same living environment, implementing measures to quarantine them in barracks on land. The future plans of the JS MURASAME are not decided at this point in time, but the Government is making arrangements to ensure that there is no impact on the information-gathering mission in the Middle East.
REPORTER: I would like to ask about the trade agreement currently being negotiated between Japan and the United Kingdom. I believe that the original outlook was for negotiations to conclude by as early as August, but the reaching of an agreement has now been postponed. Is this not the result of the political vacuum in Japan?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: In my understanding, the negotiations are still ongoing.
REPORTER: The Government has concluded a basic agreement to receive the supply of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Moderna that is currently in the final phase of clinical trials in the United States. Meanwhile, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has stated that it may authorize the emergency use of the vaccine even before the final-phase clinical trials are completed. It is possible that there will be other similar cases in the future, including in other countries. What are the Japanese Government’s thoughts on the process for beginning the supply of vaccines?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Including the case of Moderna, which you just mentioned, when an application for the approval of a vaccine is submitted in Japan, the Government will appropriately assess it from the perspective of ensuring efficacy and safety, based on clinical trial data and the latest scientific knowledge.

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