"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] [COVID-19] Press Conference by the Prime Minister regarding the Novel Coronavirus

[Date] May 14, 2021
[Source] Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet
[Notes] Provisional translation
[Full text]

[Opening Statement]

Just now we held a meeting of the Novel Coronavirus Response Headquarters. As a result of that meeting, it was decided that Hokkaido, Okayama, and Hiroshima Prefectures will be added to the areas subject to the declaration of a state of emergency for the period of May 16 to May 31, and to add Gunma, Ishikawa, and Kumamoto Prefectures to the areas where priority measures to prevent the spread of disease are in effect for the period of May 16 to June 13.

Nationally, we see differences in the state of infections depending on the area, with infections spreading quickly in some areas. The number of new infections has shifted into a decline in Osaka, while in Tokyo, the situation has leveled off on the whole and Aichi and Fukuoka continue to experience increases.

Against this background, the number of new infections in Hokkaido, Okayama, and Hiroshima Prefectures, all of which have relatively large populations, is increasing at an extremely rapid pace. In these areas, we have been working in cooperation with local governments to promote response measures until now, but at a meeting of the subcommittee that met this morning, experts expressed the view that more stringent responses are necessary.

The Government's approach remains unchanged, that with the variants of coronavirus spreading, now is an important time to stem the spread of infections, and I took the decision to add these prefectures, also giving consideration to the views of the experts. Their addition will be in effect until the end of this month, harmonizing with Tokyo and other prefectures already subject to it, and we will make another decision at that time on responses to be taken beyond that point.

In the areas subject to the declaration of the state of emergency, we will maintain a heightened sense of vigilance as we work in cooperation with each local government to take highly potent measures that include suspending the serving of alcohol and the offering of karaoke services at dining and drinking establishments and the promotion of teleworking.

For areas where priority measures to prevent the spread of disease are in effect, we will undertake intensive measures that include the shortening of operating hours and patrols of dining and drinking establishments, and moreover, we have also made it possible to take measures equivalent to those in effect under the declaration of the state of emergency, such as suspending the serving of alcohol at dining and drinking establishments.

Starting this week, full-scale administration of the vaccines has been underway by local governments all around the nation. Vaccinations will be the trump card in protecting the life of each member of the public. Cooperation between local governments and medical practitioners is advancing, with 1,490 municipalities -- accounting for 85 percent of all municipalities nationwide -- on schedule to be able to finish inoculating elderly persons by the end of July. There has also been progress in prefectural governments partnering with university hospitals and other entities in locations around the country to establish large-scale vaccination centers. We will continue to provide reliable support for all local governments and work to enable all citizens to get vaccinated at the earliest possible time.

Moreover, within roughly next month, we will also begin broadly inoculating the general public, including people with underlying health conditions, starting from municipalities that have prospects for finishing vaccinations of the elderly. In conjunction with this, thanks to cooperation from occupational physicians in companies all around the country, we will move forward with vaccinations of members of local communities and people at workplaces.

Meanwhile, we have caused some inconvenience for the citizens, such as difficulties in making vaccination appointments, and I am truly sorry about that. But we will secure 100 million doses of the vaccine by the end of June and work in steadfast collaboration with local governments and other related parties to ensure that everyone is absolutely able to get vaccinated.

In our medical care and nursing care facilities and other locations, even today, the related persons are making all-out efforts, and I express my sincere appreciation to them.

In order to restore as soon as possible daily lives in which we feel at ease, we will accelerate administration of the vaccines and, in the meantime, thoroughly implement response measures and hold back the level of infections in locations around the country to the greatest possible extent. Towards that end, I ask everyone to conscientiously implement the truly critical precautionary measures of wearing masks, washing our hands, and avoiding the three Cs [of closed spaces, crowded spaces, and close-contact settings].

The results of investigations indicate that, in particular, infections arising from conversations without masks constitute the majority of causes. Each and every individual wearing a mask consistently, whether out for a meal or drinks, or in a conversational setting, or at the workplace, will be a formidable force for avoiding the spread of infections. I ask sincerely for the cooperation of the citizens.

Thank you very much.