Rift widens between Abe and disease experts over coronavirus strategy
Japan Times -- Jul 07
Infectious disease experts are feeling a sense of distrust with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s response to the COVID-19 epidemic, amid signs that the disease is beginning to spread again.

Concerns have risen because the Prime Minister’s Office has frequently ignored expert advice on the disease as he grew impatient over the uncontrollable crisis.

‘We’ve won’

On May 22, days before the government fully lifted a state of emergency over the pandemic, Abe and members of his Cabinet waited for information on new infection cases in Tokyo. When they learned that Tokyo marked only three new cases that day, health minister Katsunobu Kato said to Abe, “We’ve won.”

“We haven’t seen the results from neighboring constituencies,” Abe replied, urging Kato to wait for numbers to arrive from the prefectures around Tokyo. But he signaled a sense of relief over the low infection numbers in the capital, as they indicated that economic activity could resume in the country.

Since the nation reported its first coronavirus case in mid-January, the prime minister has grappled with the conflicting goals of containing the virus and maintaining economic activity.

Infectious disease experts, believing coronavirus prevention to be of the highest importance, had called for lockdowns. Meanwhile, those close to Abe were consistently skeptical of powerful measures, fearing potential damage to the economy.

The prime minister initially prioritized coronavirus prevention measures, declaring a state of emergency over some parts of the country on April 7. He expanded the measure nationwide on April 16.

The transition to the nationwide state of emergency was triggered mainly by fears of an uncontrollable spike in the number of coronavirus cases.

Abe, however, shifted to putting priority on the economy once it became clear that the pandemic was causing severe economic damage.

News source: Japan Times
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