TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister KISHIDA Fumio on Thursday announced a plan to expand the rollout of fourth shots of COVID-19 vaccines to cover a total of some 8 million medical workers and workers at elderly care facilities across the country, in response to a seventh wave of infections in the country.
Kishida also told a press conference that the government plans to increase the number of operating nuclear reactors in the country from the current five to up to nine in winter to prepare for possible electricity supply shortages, at a time when energy prices are rising amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
On the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, Kishida said the government will not impose activity restrictions at the moment, aiming to balance social and economic activities with COVID-19 measures.
“While maintaining maximum vigilance, we’ll promote efforts in stages toward recovering social and economic activities,” the prime minister said.
Kishida also revealed a plan to open temporary free COVID-19 testing sites at over 100 locations including major train stations and airports as one countermeasure during summer.
The prime minister called on young people to receive third COVID-19 vaccinations. “It’s necessary to take balanced measures for each generation,” he said.
Currently, fourth COVID-19 vaccine shots are available to people aged 60 or over and those aged 18 or over with underlying conditions. Kishida said the government will promptly expand the scope of fourth shots from next week.
As for soaring energy prices stemming from the war in Ukraine, the prime minister said while the government has paved the way for securing stable power supply for this summer, there are concerns that the country’s electricity supply-demand balance will be tight again in winter.
Kishida said while restarting nuclear reactors, the government aims to secure additional thermal power generation equivalent to output by 10 thermal power units.
Also at the press conference, Kishida said the government plans to make a decision by the end of this month on the use of reserve funds to swiftly implement measures to deal with soaring food and energy prices that are weighing on people’s lives and corporate activities.
By using part of the funds, the government is set to create a subsidy program aimed at curbing agricultural production costs as fertilizer prices are rising.
To help reduce the burden of electricity costs, the government is also slated to start giving reward points this summer at the earliest to households cooperating to save electricity.
“We take very seriously the situation in which soaring prices are having a major impact on people’s daily lives,” Kishida said. “By flexibly utilizing the 5.5-trillion-yen reserve funds, we’ll take swift and comprehensive measures seamlessly,” he added.
The government will hold a meeting of its comprehensive task force on prices, wages and livelihoods on Friday morning.