1. COVID-19 Updates In Japan
l After the new cases hitting the bottom for a couple of months, a surge of the number of newly infected people is occurring now. It is the 6th wave of the Covid-19 infection, which is driven mostly by the Omicron variant.
l The Kishida Administration earlier decided to apply semi-state of emergency COVID-19 measures to Hiroshima, Yamaguchi and Okinawa where the infection had been much higher than other prefectures. Then, the administration will apply the same measures to Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba, Gunma, Niigata, Gifu, Aichi, Mie, Kagawa, Nagasaki, Kumamoto and Miyazaki tomorrow in response to the request from the governors of the 13 prefectures. Furthermore, Hokkaido, Shizuoka, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo, Fukuoka, Saga and Oita have just requested for the same semi-state of emergency measures, and the administration is anticipated to respond soon.
l Although Japan’s borders are closed to foreign visitors at this moment, the Kishida Administration decided to exceptionally admit the entry of 87 government-sponsored foreign students to Japan within this month. The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Labor agreed on the 20th to approve Pfizer’s vaccine to be applied to children aged between 5 and 11 years old.
<As of 12 pm of January 20th>
The cumulative number of infected and dead in Japan are 2,026,567 and 18,482 respectively. The number of new cases and death in the nation for the day was 46,266 and 9. 80.0% of the population have finished the first dose of the vaccine, while 78.7% have done for the 2nd and 1.4% for the 3rd.
2. Kishida’s Response To The Pandemic Approved High
According to Yomiuri’s monthly survey that was conducted on January 14 through 16, the Kishida Cabinet’s approval rating went up by 4 points to 66% from the previous month. Its disapproval rating stayed unchanged at 22%. This approval rating was his highest ever since Kishida assumed the PM position last October. PM Kishida has been agile and flexible in responding frequently popping public demand for better ways to counter the pandemic on a day-to-day life basis. It seems these behaviors of him and his administration against the pandemic had garnered over-80% of approval ratings with regard to specific policy questions related to Covid-19. As for the booster shot, 86% of the respondents said they would like to get it. 88% of them said they would refrain from dining outside or traveling in the face of the surging 6th wave. 60% said that the government of Japan should be held accountable for the spread of the 6th wave infection starting out of the U.S. military bases and their neighbors of Okinawa, Hiroshima and Yamaguchi. The below shows the approval ratings of the political parties: The numbers in the brackets are the previous month’s figures.
LDP 41% (41%)
Japan Restoration 6% (8%)
CDPJ 5% (7%)
Independents 35% (32%)
3. PM Kishida’s Policy Speech Covers Omicron, Investment to People, China, And No Nuclear Weapon Vision
The 208th ordinary Diet session was called upon on January 17, and PM Kishida delivered his policy speech at the joint session of the House of Representatives and the House of Councilors. In his speech, Kishida emphasized the following points as his cabinet’s priority:
l Counter the surging infections of the Omicron variant and avoid any situation under which patients in mid to serious conditions cannot be hospitalized due to the insufficient availability of hospital beds, medical staff or any other medical resources.
l Implement “Japan’s New Capitalism” by doubling the amount of investment to human capital (people) both by the government and private industries
l Aim at a constructive and stable relationship with China
l Establish an “International wise persons conference” to ponder how to achieve the vision of a world without nuclear weapons, and inaugurate the first meeting in Hiroshima within this year
l Strengthen self-defense capability by studying the possibility of acquiring enemy missile site attack capability.
4. Japan-U.S. Summit Meeting To Be Held Online On January 21
The government announced on the 17th that PM Kishida would hold a TV conference with President Biden of the United States in the evening of January 21 (JST). Yomiuri reported that its topics would include the following:
l Strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance
l Propel “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Ocean” considering China’s attitude to strengthen hegemonistic behaviors
l How to respond North Korea that had been repeating missile launches
Besides, Yomiuri reported this morning that the two leaders are expected to agree to launch an economic version of 2+2 meeting, namely Foreign Minister - Secretary of State and METI Minister – Secretary of Commerce. This new 2+2 will discuss joint infrastructure investment in the Indo-Pacific region to counter China’s One Belt One Road concept. Originally, PM Kishida had hoped to visit President Biden in person, but the Omicron variant driven rapid increase of infection in both countries made the visit impossible, followed by the TV conference.
Have a wonderful weekend!