Explain importance of holding Games, present specific safeguards

To prevent the significance of this sports festival from being lost, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga must present specific safety measures and seek the public’s understanding.

The first debates in two years between the prime minister and opposition party leaders were held in the Diet. It was the first time since the inauguration of the Suga administration. The focus was on whether the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics can be held safely at a time when the novel coronavirus pandemic has not been brought under control.

Suga said: “It’s our duty to protect the lives and safety of the people. If they cannot be protected, naturally the Games won’t be held.”

Regarding members of the media and other people from abroad, Suga said the government intends to “use a global positioning system to monitor their behavior, so they will not be in contact with the Japanese public.”

Unlike athletes, who will stay in the athletes village and undergo coronavirus tests every day, it will not be easy to restrict the activities of other people involved in the Games. Shigeru Omi, an infectious disease expert who heads a government subcommittee on the coronavirus, has also raised concern about these people becoming an infection risk.

Omi has indicated that he will soon compile proposals to prevent the spread of the virus. The prime minister must take these proposals seriously and implement more effective measures for that purpose.

According to a Yomiuri Shimbun survey, 50% of respondents supported holding the Games, an increase from last month. However, many people feel uneasy. For the Games to succeed, a large number of people, including medical workers and volunteers, will need to be convinced and provide their cooperation.

Saying that he clearly remembered the previous Tokyo Games in 1964, Suga stressed that he wanted to “convey hope and courage to children and young people” in the upcoming Games. It is important for the prime minister to explain the significance of the Olympics in his own words on various opportunities.

As for inoculations, Suga said, “[The government] aims to finish coronavirus vaccinations by October or November for all people who want to get vaccinated.”

In addition to vaccinations by municipalities, large-scale vaccination efforts by the Self-Defense Forces and prefectural governments have begun, and companies and universities also are facilitating preparations for inoculations. Cooperation mainly from medical professionals, including local medical associations, will be needed.

The central government should work closely with concerned parties and further accelerate vaccinations while avoiding confusion.

In autumn, the term of office of House of Representatives lawmakers will expire, and a lower house election will be surely held. In the Diet debates between the prime minister and opposition party leaders, Yukio Edano, the leader of the largest opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, stressed, “There must be a change of administration.” However, the CDPJ must first present a comprehensive picture of its policies.

Yuichiro Tamaki, the head of the Democratic Party for the People, called for the compilation of a large-scale supplementary budget. In response, Suga said he would use reserve funds. However, the discussion was not pursued further.

Opposition party leaders, except for Edano, were allocated only five minutes each during the debates. That was too short for them to engage in full and broad discussions. The ruling and opposition parties should make efforts to vitalize the Diet by expanding the time they spend on the debates.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on June 10, 2021.