"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 24, 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 and other matters)

We have received a request to apply priority measures to prevent the spread of disease from the governors of the following 18 prefectures: Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Hokkaido, Aomori, Yamagata, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Ishikawa, Nagano, Shizuoka, Shimane, Okayama, Fukuoka, Saga, Oita and Kagoshima. In addition, Hiroshima, Yamaguchi and Okinawa Prefectures have requested that the priority measures already in place be extended. After consultations with relevant ministers, the Government has concluded that it should consult the expert committee over the application of priority measures to prevent the spread of the disease to those 18 prefectures and three prefectures, taking into account the overall trends in medical systems and infection status.

I understand that many citizens are concerned about the spread of the infections. I believe that we should consider three key points in dealing with the situation based on the hallmarks of the Omicron strain.

First and foremost, we must protect the lives of the people. We will make sure that the hospitalization system that we have strengthened is working well with particular emphasis on those who are severely ill, moderately ill or at high risk of becoming so. While the number of infected people has reached its highest ever, we still have plenty of availability of beds for those severely ill, unlike last summer.

Second, we will respond to the concerns of many patients with minor symptoms who are recuperating at home. We will ensure to prevent public health centers from coming under extreme strain by using IT to monitor the progress of patients, while ensuring that local medical services are available for those whose conditions have deteriorated. The number of medical institutions providing such services has increased by 30% compared to what was initially planned in the “Overall picture of measures to ensure security against the next spread of infections" announced last November. Unlike last summer, we have delivered around 150,000 doses of orally administered therapeutics to medical institutions, pharmacies and pharmaceutical wholesalers across the country.

Third and lastly, we should maintain social and economic activities as much as possible. Although many of those infected with the Omicron strain are mildly ill, a significant increase in the total number of infected people and those who have had close contact with such patients would make it difficult to maintain social and economic activities. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, but we would appreciate the understanding and cooperation of the public regarding the measures to limit the number of people gathering in high-risk situations and to curb the flow of people according to the circumstances of each region.

In areas where infections are spreading, local clinics are crowded with outpatients, and we apologize for any inconvenience. In some areas, the availability of test kits is said to be becoming increasingly scarce. Based on the feedback from front-line medical professionals and scientific expertise, we will make further improvements to facilitate outpatient consultations, such as by offering telemedicine and providing test kits in advance to those with certain symptoms. Details of these measures will be explained later by the Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare. In addition to some 4.6 million test kits that have already been secured, we have requested manufacturers to increase their daily supply to 800,000 kits for the time being, with the Government guaranteeing to purchase them.

In this battle against unknown viruses, some municipalities have seen a clear slowdown of the spread of infections since the implementation of priority measures to prevent the spread of disease. I hope that sufficient preparations without undue fear and collaboration with municipalities, experts, medical professionals, and above all, the public, will help us overcome this situation. In order to protect front-line medical institutions and maintain social and economic activities, I would like to ask the public to thoroughly implement basic measures to prevent infections, such as wearing masks, washing hand washing and avoiding of the three Cs [closed spaces with poor ventilation, crowded places and close contact situations], as well as preparing a business continuity plan (BCP).