TOKYO: All four candidates in the leadership election of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party emphasize the significance of vaccinations and sufficient medical care to contain COVID-19, but there are differences among them over legislation to enable lockdowns.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has been consistently cautious about lockdowns, which involve strict restrictions on private rights, saying the measures do not suit Japan.
Regulatory reform minister Taro Kono and former internal affairs minister Sanae Takaichi, two of the four contenders in the Sept. 29 LDP election to choose the successor to Suga, call for legislative action to enable lockdowns.
“Discussions on lockdowns are needed to prepare for the worst case scenario in the future,” Kono said. Takaichi said, “It’s necessary to enact a law for preparations.”
Former LDP Policy Research Council Chairman Fumio Kishida, another candidate, is positive about amending law to enable lockdowns.
“We need to consider ways to curb the flow of people,” Kishida said. But he added, “Our priority should be to implement economic measures to compensate for the restrictions.”
In contrast to the three candidates, LDP Executive Acting Secretary-General Seiko Noda said that lockdowns are unnecessary. People in Japan “locked themselves down voluntarily” under the government’s COVID-19 state of emergency, she said.
The four candidates share the view that the country should resume the Go To stimulus programs once the pandemic is brought under control.
The programs include the Go To Travel domestic tourism promotion initiative, which has been suspended since late last year due to a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Kishida calls for introducing a revamped version of Go To Travel targeting consumers with a proof of vaccination. “We’ll keep the economy going to make people in the tourism industry happy, too,” he said.
Noda said, “We need to advance the economy step by step.” Takaichi said that people “may be allowed to start traveling within a region or to a close destination” if COVID-19 treatment drugs become common and other conditions are met.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Kono, who is also minister in charge of COVID-19 vaccinations, said the government is considering having municipalities send inoculation vouchers with dates for vaccinations to local residents for booster shots.
Kishida seeks to establish a new government agency to oversee precautions against COVID-19. He calls for explanations from the government about COVID-19 restrictions that can win understanding and cooperation from the public.
Takaichi seeks to develop COVID-19 vaccines and treatment drugs in Japan. Noda calls for developing emergency medical facilities for COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms.