Kishida emphasizes preemptive approach against omicron

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida explains the government’s measures against the coronavirus and other problems at the Prime Minister’s Office on Tuesday.

With the rapid spread of the omicron variant in the United States, there is growing concern about a sixth wave of coronavirus infections in Japan. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is expected to face even greater pressure to handle the situation, as the number of people who contract the omicron variant, and those who have been in close contact with them, may climb swiftly.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Kishida asked for understanding of the government’s coronavirus measures, saying, “We will take preemptive steps to address the new situation, including variant strains and other issues, with caution and prudence.”

The government must be ready to maintain its strict border measures, including the ban in principle on the new entry of foreign nationals. More people are expected to return to Japan during the year-end and New Year holiday period.

Authorities have banned new entry into Japan by foreign nationals in principle and asked Japanese nationals returning from countries and regions where omicron infections have been confirmed to quarantine at designated facilities for three to 10 days after entering Japan.

If the number of people required to quarantine increases, there is expected to be a shortage of designated facilities.

The government asks people who have been in close contact with those infected with the omicron variant to completely isolate themselves at accommodation facilities for 14 days.

“We want to take appropriate measures, no matter what the circumstances,” a government official said, regarding the potential shortage of accommodations.

The government has announced it will shorten the interval between the second and third shots of vaccine by one to two months for about 31 million people, primarily medical staff and elderly people. The government narrowed down the target group in this way because the number of advance inoculations that can be covered by the current supply plan and the use of existing surplus vaccines is limited.

If too many vaccinations are moved up, there many not be enough supply in certain areas.

Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Shigeyuki Goto announced at the budget committee of the House of Councillors on Monday that the government would consider bringing forward the third round of vaccinations in workplaces. In response, some in the government said workplace vaccinations were not a high priority in the third round.

On Tuesday, Goto said, “Those who are inoculated at their workplace will not immediately be subject to the accelerated schedule.”

To proceed with the third round of shots in earnest, it will be essential to cooperate with local governments, which handle the actual implementation. “Careful information sharing and coordination is important so that local governments will not be thrown into turmoil,” a veteran member of the Liberal Democratic Party said.