Voters deserve specific details on parties’ plans to fight coronavirus

REUTERS/Issei Kato
Election campaign staff members show off the signboards for the countermeasures against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, before a speech by Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who is also the President of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, on the last day of campaigning for the October 31 lower house election, in Tokyo, Japan October 30, 2021.

With progress being made on the vaccination front, measures against the novel coronavirus have entered a new phase. How is it possible to return to our normal lives while still working to prevent infections? In the upcoming House of Representatives election, voters must identify which measures will be effective in the platforms of each party.

The number of new infections has dropped dramatically, and for the first time in 11 months, both the Tokyo metropolitan and Osaka prefectural governments lifted requests for dining establishments to shorten operating hours. This is the first good news in a while for a sector hit particularly hard by the pandemic.

However, if there is another surge in infections, it all becomes pointless. In Britain, where social restrictions were boldly eliminated, the daily number of infections now is about 50,000.

Taking into consideration the situation in other countries, it is necessary to come up with concrete measures in Japan that enable both the containing of infections and the functioning of the economy.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party has called for the application of vaccination certificates and PCR test results. Using such certificates would allow for an easing of restrictions on events, travel and dining in large groups, the party says.

The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition party, remains cautious about the use of certificates, saying, “Those who cannot or will not get vaccinated could be subjected to discriminatory treatment.” The party’s focus is on preventing the spread of infections through such measures as thorough PCR testing.

While it is necessary to have concern for those unable to receive the vaccine for health or other reasons, the use of certificates can be seen as an effective means for keeping the economy going. If the CDPJ has a way to resume economic activities without such certificates, it should present it in an easy-to-understand way.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said, “A severe lockdown with large fines like those in the United States and Europe is not suitable for Japan.”

In its election platform, the LDP pledged to revise the law so that the government can control the flow of people. But what kind of situations does the party envision for tighter control, and how would the law be amended? Restricting individual rights must be conducted in a cautious manner.

Reflecting on the government’s late response to securing sufficient hospital beds for COVID-19 patients, both the ruling and opposition parties are calling for a strengthening of the government’s function as a central command post, with the LDP also emphasizing the need to expand financial support for medical institutions that deal with coronavirus patients.

But providing subsidies to hospitals alone cannot be expected to produce adequate results. During the fifth wave of infections that hit Japan this summer, many hospitals were unable to accept infected patients due to a shortage of medical staff. It is important to increase training sessions to nurture more staff able to handle coronavirus cases.

The CDPJ plans to review the government’s recent policy of curbing fiscal spending on medical and nursing care services. While the party’s aim is surely to improve the medical care system, it should also show how it plans to finance it.

There is a possibility that, in addition to another surge in coronavirus infections, a new infectious disease could emerge in the future. With the fifth wave currently being brought under control, it is essential to use this time to establish a medical care system that can respond quickly to a crisis.