Japanese public holds mixed feelings on omicron, government measures, Yomiuri poll finds

A recent Yomiuri Shimbun poll found many people worried about getting infected and becoming seriously ill while also praising shortened quarantine measure. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will be pressed to make some difficult choices.

In the nationwide poll conducted over the phone from Friday through Sunday, 49% of respondents said they felt somewhat worried and 17% said they were very worried. This total of 66% comes even as many people infected with the omicron variant of the novel coronavirus have shown minor or no symptoms.

The government’s decision to shorten to seven days the time people in close contact with an infected person are required to quarantine was praised by 73% of respondents, against 18% who did not feel that way.

Regarding whether the central and local governments should restrict economic activities such as the operation of restaurants and bars, 41% of respondents said they should, while 51% were against it.

As for declaring a state of emergency for Tokyo and Osaka, 44% of respondents said the central government should do so, while 48% said there was no need.

There has been a pattern of declaring a state of emergency when infections spread rapidly, so respondents appear to harbor doubts as to what sorts of measures would be effective.

With public opinion appearing mixed, the central government may come under fire to some extent regardless of whether it tightens relevant measures or relaxes them.

Another worry for many people is that the spread of the omicron variant will make many functions of society difficult to maintain, with 37% of respondents saying they strongly felt such anxiety, while 48% said they felt somewhat uneasy about the situation. This means a total of 85% of people polled felt some worry.

As for the government’s responses to coping with the novel coronavirus, 48% of respondents praised them, down from 52% in the previous poll taken Jan. 14-16. Respondents who did not praise the responses stood at 44%, up from 41%. Regarding the rollout of vaccine booster shots, 59% said it has been slow.

Accordingly, the approval rating of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s Cabinet was 58%, down eight percentage points, while the disapproval rating rose to 28% from 22%.

The approval rating of the Cabinet among respondents aged 70 and over, who are likely to become seriously ill from COVID-19, was also at 58%, down from 70%. The approval rating among respondents with no party affiliation stood at 41%, down 13 percentage points.

As for respondents who disapproved of the Kishida Cabinet, 23% of them cited his “lack of leadership,” up from 18%, and 27% said they “couldn’t place any hope in his policies.”

However, regarding the government’s decision not to send any government representatives to the Beijing Winter Olympics in the light of human rights issues in China, 72% of respondents said it was appropriate, far surpassing the 17% of respondents who said it was inappropriate.