Arab News Japan
TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister SUGA Yoshihide held a press conference on Thursday where he reflected on his time as prime minister, which will come to an end when the Liberal Democratic Party elects a new president at the end of this month.
“It’s been a year since I became Prime Minister, and I spent all my time fighting the new coronavirus. I have been working hard to protect the lives and livelihoods of the people. I would like to express my sincere appreciation to all those involved, including medical and nursing staff, who have made great efforts to this day,” Suga said and bowed in appreciation.
He continued: “The battle against the invisible enemy of the new coronavirus has been extremely difficult, similar to groping through dark tunnels step by step. If I hear the sound of an ambulance, I wonder if the people are getting the necessary medical care. I have felt such anxiety many times, listening to people’s voices and the opinions of experts, and making decisions after discussing with the relevant ministers about what would be best for our citizens.”
“One year was too short for us to do everything, but I was able to show the way for a future where children, young people, and the people of Japan can feel safe and hopeful. As Prime Minister, I will devote myself to my duties until the last day.”
“I decided not to run in the LDP presidential election because I thought I should concentrate on dealing with the coronavirus. As Prime Minister, what I need to do now is to overcome this crisis and pave the way for us to regain peace of mind and prosperity.”
The Japanese prime minister also said it was necessary to make sure the medical system could cope with the pandemic and lessen the seriousness of the disease by providing medicines and vaccines. The government has needed to secure hospital beds and accommodation in hotels, as well as to consider “field hospitals” oxygen stations and temporary medical facilities.
Vaccination for all applicants is scheduled to be completed from October to early November, and restrictions will be eased in areas under a state of emergency. This will include normalising activities such as eating, drinking, events and travel.
“We will make every effort to support the businesses, employment, and livelihood of those affected people,” Suga added.
He said the government will resolve issues that have come up during the pandemic such as the delay in clinical trials and the approval of treatments and vaccines, as well as the difficulty in responding appropriately in emergencies.
Regarding vaccinations, he said: “At the end of this month, 70 percent of the population will have received at least one vaccination, and 60 percent will have received two vaccinations, which is expected to be the same level as other countries today.As for the spread of the Delta variant, only one-thirteenth of those who had been vaccinated twice were infected.Approximately 90% of the elderly at the highest risk of becoming seriously ill have been vaccinated twice, and the number of seriously ill and dead has been extremely small.”
Turning to other matters, Suga was happy with progress in the diplomatic field: “We were able to further strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance and deepen cooperation with partners and regions toward the concrete implementation of the Free and Open Indo-Pacific Initiative,” he said.
Regarding the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, he said: “There were many opinions about hosting the Games this summer, but as the host country, we were able to fulfill our responsibilities. The athletes’ excellent performances moved many people and gave dreams and hopes all over the world.”
Suga noted achievements such as the new Digital Agency: “Over the past year, I have challenged long-standing beliefs to meet people’s expectations. With the establishment of the Digital Agency and carbon neutral target by 2050, the new growth engine has made a strong start. Lower mobile phone bills have reduced household burdens by 430 billion yen, while the minimum wage rose to a record 930 yen.“
“We also lifted income restrictions and paved the way for insurance coverage for infertility treatments. As a first step in seeing a social security system that all generations can be comfortable with, reforms have also been implemented that require elderly people with incomes above a certain level to pay 20 percent of medical expenses. We were also able to pass the referendum law, which is the first step toward constitutional revision.”
Asked by reporters who he would support in the presidential election, he said, “It hasn’t been announced yet, and not all the potential candidates have expressed their candidacy. I would like to make a decision when the announcement date on the 17th of this month is reached.”