Make every effort to prevent delays in state affairs

The highly contagious virus is spreading, and anyone could get infected. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida should first focus on recovering his health and minimize the impact on the management of state affairs.

The prime minister has been infected with the novel coronavirus. He complained of symptoms such as a slight fever and coughing, and tested positive after taking a PCR test. This is the first time a Japanese prime minister has been confirmed positive for the virus.

The prime minister began his summer vacation on the afternoon of Aug. 15 and spent time with his family playing golf and traveling to a hot spring. Kishida was scheduled to return to his official duties on Monday.

His body temperature is said to have returned to normal, but he will remain at the prime minister’s official residence to recuperate until next Tuesday. The government said no temporary acting prime minister will be appointed, and Kishida is expected to perform his duties online. The prime minister spoke to reporters online and emphasized, “I don’t feel any inconvenience in telecommuting.”

All possible measures must be taken to ensure that the execution of policies will not be delayed.

Since last month, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno and secretaries to the prime minister have been infected. The daily number of new cases in Japan has remained high.

Kishida was inoculated with the fourth dose of a COVID-19 vaccine on Aug. 12.

The current vaccines are said to be relatively ineffective in preventing infection against the BA.5 omicron subvariant, which is currently prevalent. But they are said to be effective in preventing people from developing serious symptoms. The claim by some people that the vaccines are pointless may not be true.

The government plans to approve new vaccines against the omicron variant as early as October and begin administering additional doses. The central government should work with local governments to prepare for a new round of vaccinations to be administered promptly.

Until then, it is important for the government to repeatedly call for thorough implementation of basic measures such as wearing masks and ventilation.

During the prime minister’s recuperation period, each of the ministries and agencies must continue to address issues.

The prime minister has canceled his trip to Tunisia, where the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) will be held, and he will instead participate online. This is an important conference that Japan has taken the initiative to hold every three years.

Africa is facing a serious food crisis due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Although in-person summit diplomacy is no longer possible, Japan should actively cooperate in the development of health care systems as well as food aid for African countries.

Domestically, energy prices are soaring and food prices continue to rise, and there are many calls for measures to combat high prices. Earlier, the prime minister instructed the agriculture, forestry and fisheries minister to keep the selling price of imported wheat purchased by the government unchanged.

The government is urged to enhance support for low-income people who have been hit hard through such means as using the government reserve in the fiscal 2022 budget.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 23, 2022)