Tokyo Olympics 2020: Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga vows Games will be proof of victory over virus

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has vowed to get the pandemic under control and hold the already postponed Olympics this summer with ample coronavirus protection.

The Associated Press January 18, 2021 17:35:08 IST
Tokyo Olympics 2020: Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga vows Games will be proof of victory over virus

Tokyo: Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga vowed on Monday to get the pandemic under control and hold the already postponed Olympics this summer with ample coronavirus protection.

In a speech opening a new Parliament session, Suga said his government would revise laws to make anti-virus measures enforceable with penalties and compensation.

Early in the pandemic, Japan were able to keep their virus caseload manageable with non-binding requests for businesses to close or operate with social distancing and for people to stay home. But recent weeks have seen several highs in new cases per day, in part blamed on eased attitudes toward the anti-virus measures, and doubts are growing as more contagious variants spread while people wait for vaccines and the Olympics draw closer.

Suga said his government aims to start vaccinations as early as late February.

“In order to restore a sense of safety, I will get the coronavirus pandemic, which has raged worldwide and is now severely affecting Japan, under control as soon as possible,” Suga said. “I will stand at the frontline of the battle while I get the people's cooperation."

Tokyo Olympics 2020 Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga vows Games will be proof of victory over virus

The Olympic rings are seen in front of the Rainbow Bridge in Tokyo. AP Photo

Suga pledged to achieve the Olympics as “a proof of human victory against the coronavirus ."

“We will have full anti-infection measures in place and proceed with preparation with a determination to achieve the Games that can deliver hope and courage throughout the world," he said.

Recent media polls show about 80 percent of the Japanese public think the Olympics will not or should not happen.

Suga said the vaccine is the “clincher” of the pandemic and hopes to start vaccination when Japan's Health Ministry is expected to approve the vaccine developed by Pfizer, one of three foreign suppliers to Japan, as early as late February. But the pace of inoculation could be slow, as surveys have shown many people have safety concerns.

Suga later told reporters that he created a new ministerial post to ensure smooth delivery of safe and effective vaccines, appointing Administrative Reform Minister Taro Kono to double as vaccine minister.

Japan have confirmed more than 330,000 infections and 4,500 deaths from COVID-19 , numbers that have surged recently though they are still far smaller than many other countries of its size.

On 7 January, Suga issued a state of emergency for the Tokyo area and expanded the step last Wednesday as the surge in infections strained medical systems. But he has been criticised for being slow to put preventative measures in place after the new surge began, apparently due to his government’s reluctance to further hurt the economy.

The state of emergency — covering more than half of Japan’s 127 million people — asks bars and restaurants to close by 8 PM, employees to have 70 percent of their staff work from home, and residents to avoid leaving home for non-essential purposes. It's set to end on 7 February but could be extended.

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