Kishida vows utmost efforts to tackle omicron in policy speech

Jiji Press
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida delivers a policy speech during a plenary session of the House of Representatives in the Diet building in Tokyo on Monday.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida vowed in a policy speech in the Diet on Monday to make every effort to contain the omicron variant of the novel coronavirus, while maintaining a stance to “meticulously and carefully” respond to any surges in COVID-19.

At the convening of the extraordinary Diet session, Kishida also expressed his determination to seek public understanding for large-scale economic stimulus measures and to strengthen Japan’s defense capabilities.

Referring to the spread of the omicron variant, “It is vital to assume the worst-case scenario,” Kishida stressed in the speech delivered at plenary sessions of both houses of the Diet.

Regarding COVID-19 booster shots, Kishida said the government will assess the effectiveness of existing vaccines on the omicron variant, and also make use of the Moderna, Inc. vaccine, which is expected to be approved soon for boosters.

Given that, he said the timing for people to receive booster shots will be advanced as much as possible, based on priority without waiting for eight months after the second dose. The government envisages the elderly and those living in densely populated metropolitan areas among those going to the head of the line.

To prepare for a future pandemic, the prime minister announced a plan to invest about ¥500 billion in the development and production of domestic vaccines and medicines. He also aims to open legal channels for fast-tracking approval of such vaccines and drugs.

As for the economic stimulus package that calls for ¥55.7 trillion in fiscal spending, Kishida vowed that the government will “make all necessary fiscal expenditures without hesitation.”

To reopen the economy and resume social activities, Kishida said preparations are underway for a new Go To Travel tourism promotion campaign and other stimulus measures, but warned, “We must carefully assess the situation without being overly optimistic.”

Kishida reiterated his pet policy of creating a new form of capitalism, saying the government is implementing concrete measures to realize “growth and distribution.” To that end, he pledged a drastic increase in income for young people and child-rearing households, and expressed his willingness to take the lead in discussions worldwide with leaders of major countries who share an awareness of the issue.

As a measure to revitalize regional areas, Kishida revealed a plan for a “digital garden city superhighway” in which the entire nation is digitized through the use of submarine cables, which will become the foundation for high-speed communications, with construction taking about three years.

In the area of national security, Kishida touched on the idea of Japan possessing the capability to attack enemy bases for self-defense purposes.

“We will strengthen our defense capabilities in a drastic and speedy manner by considering the matter realistically without eliminating any option,” he declared.

He said the government intends to formulate updated versions of the National Security Strategy, National Defense Program Guidelines and Medium Term Defense Program, taking “about one year” to do so.

Regarding the issue of constitutional amendment, Kishida called for a national debate.

“Diet members have a duty to seriously consider the way the Constitution should be,” he said.

On nuclear disarmament, Kishida expressed an intention to work together with the United States and other concerned countries, saying his government “will make realistic efforts.”