Kishida administration moving too slowly… and feeling useless in dealing with vaccines | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Kishida administration moving too slowly… and feeling useless in dealing with vaccines

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A lot of difficult questions since the beginning of the year… (AFLO)

The infection of the Omicron Variant, a mutation of the rampant new coronavirus, is spreading rapidly. The arrival of the sixth wave was foreseeable given the devastation in Europe and the United States since the end of last year, but Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who is in control of the “Japan Maru,” has been slow to act.

Vaccination rates, which had been among the highest in the world, have fallen behind due to additional vaccinations, and it is no longer unusual for the government to change its policy two or three times. The government’s slow response to the coronary disease has made the collapse of social infrastructure a real possibility.

It has caused a sense of security.

The highly infectious Omicron Variant that South Africa revealed in November last year should have shocked Prime Minister Kishida, who was relieved to have won the general election at the end of October. However, the economic measures approved by the Cabinet in November focused on compatibility with socioeconomic activities, and the coronary measures lacked novelty, causing the public to feel reassured that it would be safe to return to normal.

In Europe and the United States, the number of infected people has exploded, and the number of people infected per day has reached a record high in the United Kingdom, Italy, and France. The number of new infections reported in the U.S. on January 3 was reported to have exceeded one million. In his policy speech in December, Prime Minister Kishida said, “What is important is to assume the worst case scenario,” and expressed his intention to thoroughly secure hospital beds to cope with the situation even if the infectious power of the Omicron Variant is twice that of the Delta Variant, which raged last summer, and the infection situation exceeds the fifth wave. The infectivity of the Omicron Variant is said to be two to four times that of the Delta Variant.

Vaccine Minister Akiko Horiuchi, in contrast to her predecessor Taro Kono, lacks coordination and communication skills, and the public’s long-awaited third round of additional vaccinations lags far behind those in the U.S., U.K., South Korea, China and other countries, with less than 1% of the population receiving the vaccine.

On January 11, Prime Minister Kishida announced his intention to move up the third round of vaccinations for the general public, but some public health officials in Tokyo said, “It doesn’t make much sense to announce ‘moving up’ when we can’t secure the vaccine as expected and we don’t have the necessary arrangements in place. Considering that the priority measures to prevent the spread of the disease have been applied to Okinawa, Yamaguchi, and Hiroshima prefectures, and that the number of infected people has already increased rapidly in Tokyo, Osaka, and other major metropolitan areas, there is no denying that it is too late.

In addition, in response to the spread of infection overseas, the government asked airlines to suspend new international flight reservations last fall, but withdrew the request soon after. In addition, the government withdrew its request to airlines last fall to suspend new international flight bookings in response to the spread of the disease overseas, but immediately withdrew the request. The government also withdrew its notice within three days that it would not allow people who had come into close contact with the Omicron Variant to take junior high and high school entrance examinations or university exams.

The problem with the Kishida administration’s backward approach to dealing with coronas is that it has emphasized its official position that the Omicron Variant is “highly infectious, but the rate of serious illness is likely to be low” (Prime Minister Kishida), and has neglected the fact that an explosive increase in the number of infected people, even if they do not become seriously ill, would have a huge impact on social infrastructure.

On January 12, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the number of newly infected people worldwide reached a record high of over 15 million in one week, and the number of newly infected people in Japan also exceeded 10,000 for the first time in four months. More than half of the European population is expected to be infected with the Omicron Variant in the next six to eight weeks, an astounding rate of infection.

Naturally, there will be an explosion of people who are considered “close contacts” even if they are not confirmed to be infected themselves. In Okinawa Prefecture, where the infection is spreading rapidly, the number of medical personnel who have become “close contacts” is increasing, and more than 600 people are absent from work, threatening to affect normal medical care.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) has hurriedly approved a special exception to allow the workers to return to work on the condition that they are examined every day and the waiting period for those in close contact with the virus has been shortened to about 10 days, but “absenteeism” is not limited to the medical field. However, “absenteeism” is not limited to the medical field. Police, firefighters, and nursing home staff are also conspicuously absent from work, and private companies may find it difficult to continue operations due to a shortage of manpower.

In fact, there have been a series of temporary school closures and class closures at elementary and junior high schools in Okinawa Prefecture. If nursery schools and kindergartens are closed, there will be a cascade of cases where parents from various professions will be forced to take time off work. At a press conference on January 11, Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Shinsuke Suematsu stated, “It is important to continue learning by combining face-to-face and online activities,” and announced that he would not call for temporary school closures nationwide. However, if the number of infected teachers, students, and children, as well as those in close contact with them, increases rapidly due to the rapid spread of the Omicron Variant, it is difficult to say to what extent opportunities for learning will be secured.

A reporter for a national newspaper covering the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare said.

The Kishida administration should do a better job of explaining that the highly infectious Omicron Variant has the potential to affect social infrastructure, corporate business continuity, and educational facilities, rather than just preventing serious illness. I think the government could have done more when the number of infected people had been calm since last fall, but I think it underestimated the Omicron Variant and moved too slowly.

In his policy speech, Prime Minister Kishida quoted U.S. President John F. Kennedy, who said, “If you want to repair a roof, you must do it while the sun is shining,” but his words ring hollow.

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