Kishida: Dealing with the Omicron variant of the virus is a top priority

The government’s top priority remains taking action to tackle the COVID-19 crisis, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said in a carefully crafted policy speech that provided no new ammunition for opposition parties.

In his address to both houses of the Diet on January 17, Kishida said the focus would be on ensuring the national medical care structure would not come under undue strain due to the recent spike in infections. , especially with the Omicron variant.

“Without becoming overly fearful, I am prepared to deal with it calmly based on the latest scientific knowledge,” Kishida said.

He said efforts would be made to expedite booster shots and strengthen the structure of medical care, but noted that much was still unknown about the Omicron variant.

To avoid criticism from the opposition, Kishida has apologized following a recent third-party investigation that found officials at the Ministry of Infrastructure tried to cover up the long period of collecting poor quality data on construction contracts.

“I sincerely accept the results of this investigation and would like to apologize to the public,” Kishida said.

He also said he would strive to raise the weighted average minimum hourly wage above 1,000 yen ($8.70) as soon as possible as part of his goal to redistribute economic benefits to a segment. wider population.

In the area of ​​foreign affairs, Kishida referred to the fact that 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the normalization of relations with China and said he would seek to build a constructive and stable relationship.

With the regular Diet session scheduled to last until June 15 and an Upper House election scheduled for the summer, the Kishida government wants to avoid raising any issues or proposing legislation that could be used to stir up a support for the opposition.

For example, Kishida’s speech omitted any mention of the various Go To consumer promotion schemes despite having said in his first speech as prime minister in December that he wanted to resume them as soon as possible.

The government has decided not to submit a bill to revise the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act. Similar legislation was never passed in the ordinary session of the Diet last year, largely because the opposition wanted answers about the death of a Sri Lankan woman while she was detained by immigration authorities.

The government also does not plan to submit legislation that would give central and local governments greater authority to secure hospital beds needed to deal with COVID-19. Under current law, the government can only request cooperation from medical institutions.

Government sources said the original bill did not consider the Omicron variant, and some officials said there was a need to revise the bill.

The opposition was divided on which issues to focus on in the Diet.

The main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan said it would question the government’s handling of the pandemic, including the apparent spread of the Omicron variant by US military personnel based in Japan.

The CDP will press the government to revise the status of forces agreement between Japan and the United States, which has been criticized as an obstacle to efforts to combat COVID-19.

Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) will focus on food reform. One of the measures he will advocate is the elimination of the special allowance paid to chairmen of standing and special committees of the Diet.

(This article was compiled from reports by Keishi Nishimura, Yoshitaka Isobe and Tamiyuki Kihara.)

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