"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 regarding the Request for Application of Priority Measures to Prevent the Spread of Disease and Other Matters

[Date] January 18, 2022
[Source] Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet
[Notes] Provisional Translation
[Full text]

(Regarding the request for the application of priority measures to prevent the spread of disease)

Following the request earlier today from the Governors of Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa, Gunma, Niigata, Gifu, Aichi, Mie, Kagawa, Nagasaki, Kumamoto and Miyazaki Prefectures to apply priority measures to prevent the spread of disease, we had a discussion with relevant ministers over this issue.

This morning, we also had another meeting to listen to the opinions of experts. Firstly, the experts told us that it is necessary to ensure the system for medical services is solidly in place to respond to the increase in the number of patients with mild symptoms who are recuperating at home. Secondly, they emphasized that an increase in the number of infected people would mean an increase in the number of people absent from work, even if they are only mildly ill, leading to an increased risk of disruption of the maintenance of socio-economic activities, as well as a subsequent increase in the number of severely ill patients. They added that the measures to prevent the spread of disease should be well-coordinated to deal with the hallmarks of the Omicron strain, citing as detailed examples cases in other countries proving limiting the number of people in high-risk situations where they tend to talk loudly without wearing masks can be more effective than broad restrictions on socio-economic activities.

The Government concluded that we should consult the expert committee on the application of priority measures in the requested areas of Tokyo and 12 prefectures on the basis that, first, each municipality needs to make further preparations to ensure that their established medical systems are fully operational, and second, it necessary to take well-coordinated measures to curb the increase in the number of infected people.

In doing so, we will strengthen the measures such as by suspending the serving of alcohol at dining and drinking establishments at the discretion of prefectural governors, as we did last time we applied priority measures. In the meantime, the use of vaccines and testing as a package will in principle be temporarily suspended for the time being, while continuing to allow for its application at the discretion of prefectural governors. The recently added measure enabling the easing of restrictions if all members of a group have been fully vaccinated will be maintained.

To implement these measures, we will tomorrow hold a meeting of the Subcommittee on Novel Coronavirus Disease Control attended by experts. The final decision will be made after the matter is reported to the Diet.

Let me also mention how the Government will strengthen its initiatives. With infections spreading all around the country, we have taken preparations to establish the medical treatment structures and strengthened our series of steps from prevention and discovery through to early treatment based on the "Overall picture of measures to ensure security against the next spread of infections" announced last November, with a view to forestalling any such possible challenges. In order to further strengthen our capacity to respond primarily to the growing number of patients recuperating at home, we will work on a series of measures, such as establishing temporary medical facilities and oxygen stations, increasing the production of pulse oximeters and antigen testing kits and facilitating the dispatch of medical personnel to areas where infections are rapidly spreading. We will continue to act in close cooperation with individual prefectures and maintain a high level of vigilance as we engage in our responses to ensuring that the established system will run properly and preventing the availability of hospital beds from coming under extreme strain in areas where infections are spreading rapidly.

In this battle against unknown viruses, I hope that sufficient preparations without undue fear, close collaboration with prefectural governments and scientific judgements based on expertise provided by experts, as well as cooperation from medical professionals and, above all, that from citizens, will help us overcome this challenge. In order to protect the front-line medical facilities and maintain socio-economic activities, I would like to once again ask you to thoroughly implement basic measures against infections, such as wearing a mask, washing hands, avoiding the three Cs [of closed spaces, crowded places and close-contact settings] and ensuring adequate ventilation, while also making preparations for formulating a BCP (Business Continuity Plan).

As for your question regarding the anxieties of owners of eating and drinking establishments, let me explain our request for shortening their opening hours based on priority measures. Establishments certified as taking anti-infection measures will be asked to close at 9PM with or without serving alcohol. Non-certified establishments will be asked to close at 8PM without serving alcohol. Meanwhile, a group of five or more will be allowed to dine together if all members have been fully vaccinated. Based on those measures, we have established a framework making anti-infection measures compatible with business continuation with such measures put in place. For eating and drinking establishments that will be asked to cooperate with the measures, we will make efforts to make swift payment of cooperation money, the amount of which depends on their scale of business. We have also prepared a series of reliable plans to assist business continuation, such as employment adjustment subsidies and business revival support money. Thank you.