"The World and Japan" Database (Project Leader: TANAKA Akihiko)
Database of Japanese Politics and International Relations
National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA), The University of Tokyo

[Title] Press Conference by the Prime Minister

[Date] August 28, 2020
[Source] Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet
[Notes] Provisional Translation
[Full text]

[Opening Statement]

I wish to thank the Japanese people sincerely for taking thorough measures to counter both the coronavirus and heatstroke as the intense heat continues, and for cooperating with various requests from the national and local governments.

With regard to coronavirus countermeasures, while we have been in a tough fight against a faceless enemy since this January, we have made our best efforts given the knowledge we had at the time to reduce the number of infections as much as possible, prevent patients from developing severe symptoms to the greatest possible extent, and protect people's lives. Despite those efforts, unfortunately, a large number of people have lost their lives to the novel coronavirus. I extend my heartfelt condolences to those who have passed away.

I also express my thanks once again to the healthcare professionals who are giving their all providing medical care for patients even at this very moment.

Today we decided on future coronavirus countermeasures that anticipate the shift from summer into autumn and the arrival of winter. Over the last six months, we have come to understand many things. By taking preventive measures, such as diligently avoiding the three Cs, it is fully possible to successfully fight the coronavirus while engaging in socioeconomic activities. Treatment methods appropriate for particular symptoms have been developed, such as Remdesivir, and now the case fatality rate for younger generations in their 40s or younger is less than 0.1 percent. Meanwhile, more than half of all those who have died are of the generation in their 80s or older. People with a high risk of developing severe symptoms are the elderly and those with underlying conditions. Countermeasures targeting these people will be the biggest key in protecting as many lives as possible.

As we head towards winter, it is anticipated that in addition to coronavirus, the spread of influenza and other diseases could increase the number of people developing fevers. In order to reduce the burden on medical care services, it is necessary for us to transition to countermeasures from now that put more emphasis on patients having a high risk of developing severe symptoms. First will be drastically expanding our testing capacity. We will aim at a screening capacity of 200,000 tests per day, enabling us to test simultaneously for influenza by winter. At elderly care facilities and hospitals in particular, where there are people at high risk of developing severe symptoms, taking into account the local infection situation, we will implement regular screening all at once for the staff of those facilities. By doing so, we will prevent group infections among the elderly and those with underlying conditions. We also intend to prioritize medical assistance to the elderly and others with a high risk of developing severe cases.

The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is, under the Infectious Diseases Control Law, currently considered equivalent to a Class II Infectious Disease, examples of which include tuberculosis, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), or higher. Based on our knowledge gained thus far, moving forward, we will review the application of the current arrangement, including amending the relevant government ordinances. We will thoroughly ensure that mildly symptomatic and asymptomatic people will receive treatment at accommodation facilities or at their own houses, reducing the burden imposed on public health centers and medical institutions. Medical institutions, university-affiliated hospitals, and other facilities accepting coronavirus patients are facing a considerable drop in revenues. Despite the fact that they are making every possible effort around the clock for the sake of the public, they are experiencing great financial hardship. We will provide all possible assistance to dispel their worries over running their hospitals. Even during the influenza season, we will certainly ensure that a sufficient medical treatment structure is in place. We will utilize contingency funds successively for these measures and implement them immediately.

Along with our efforts to counter the coronavirus, our response to the severe security environment surrounding Japan does not permit any temporary vacuum. North Korea is making major improvements to its ballistic missile capabilities. In response to this, are we really able to protect and defend the lives and the peaceful daily lives of the Japanese people only by improving our interception capability? At a meeting of the National Security Council two days ago, we discussed a new course for security policy regarding countering missiles, given the current severe security environment. From now we will swiftly enter into coordination with the ruling parties and work on its materialization.

Having now reported to the people about those two issues, I would like to talk about the concern over my personal health.

Thirteen years ago, my chronic ulcerative colitis took a turn for the worse. In just one year, I suddenly resigned from the post of prime minister, causing great inconvenience among the public. Later, fortunately, a new drug was very effective, and I returned to great shape physically. I again took up the weighty responsibility of serving as prime minister thanks to support from the people. Over the last almost eight years I have kept my chronic illness fully under control and have had no trouble devoting all of my energy every day, day after day, to the job of prime minister.

However, I was told during a regular checkup in June that symptoms of a relapse could be seen. Since that time I have continued to devote all my energies to my duties while taking medicine, but from roughly the middle of July something unusual happened to me health-wise, and I began to get quite physically exhausted. Then, at the beginning of August a relapse of my ulcerative colitis was confirmed. As for my treatment from now, a new drug has been added to the medication I have been taking until now. At the re-examination I underwent at the beginning of this week, this new drug was confirmed to be effective. But it is necessary to have this medicine administered continuously for a while and it is difficult to foresee the result.

In politics, the most important thing is to deliver results. I have been saying this ever since my administration was inaugurated, and over these seven years and eight months I have dedicated myself completely to achieving results. It would be unacceptable if I were to err in an important political decision or fail to achieve results because of the pain of not being at peak physical condition while being sick and undergoing treatment. I have made the determination that, as I have become unable to confidently live up to the mandate from the people, I should not continue in the position of prime minister.

I will resign my position as prime minister.

We must avoid to the greatest possible extent a situation in which our response to the coronavirus, the most important issue right now, encounters obstacles. For the past roughly one month, this has been my entire focus. I worried about this terribly. For now, the spread of infection that we had seen from July has shifted into a declining trend and we succeeded in compiling countermeasures to be implemented with our eyes fixed firmly on the winter. I decided that if we are to transition to a new administration, this is the only timing possible.

I have taken on a wide range of challenges over these seven years and eight months. Regrettably, there are also many issues that remain. At the same time, there are things that I achieved or made a reality in the course of taking on various challenges. All of this is thanks to the people, who placed strong confidence in us and encouraged us during each national election. I thank you sincerely.

Despite such support, I am to resign with another year in my term of office—a year still left to go— leaving various other policies still on the way to being realized and the coronavirus epidemic at hand. I express my heartfelt apologies to the people for this situation.

It is a matter of the greatest regret that I was unable to resolve the abductions issue by my own hand. It is with the utmost reluctance that I leave my position without having achieved the conclusion of a peace treaty with Russia as well as amendments to the Constitution. However, all of these are policies that the LDP has pledged to the people, and I am certain that under a new and vigorous administration they will gain greater momentum for their advancement and move towards becoming realized. Of course, until the next prime minister is appointed, I will thoroughly fulfill my responsibilities until the very end. And, I intend to manage to recover my physical health fully through my treatment and support the new administration as a member of the Diet.

I thank the Japanese people sincerely for these eight years.