Japan’s political parties differ on COVID-19 policy pledges

Political parties in Japan are on the same page about the need to end the coronavirus pandemic as soon as possible, but their policy pledges for the Oct. 31 general election vary over the specifics, including possible legal revisions for reducing flows of people.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its coalition partner, Komeito, aim to speed up vaccinations and the development of drugs for COVID-19 in order to bring the pandemic under control and promote the reopening of economic activities at the same time.

Meanwhile, the leading opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) puts more focus on increasing the number of PCR tests and boosting border control measures.

“A major key is putting oral drugs into practical use,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said during a stump speech in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, on Wednesday, a day after the start of the official campaign period for the election for the House of Representatives, the all-important lower chamber of the Diet. “Such drugs will help bring social and economic activities back closer to normal,” Kishida, also LDP president, said.

The LDP’s election platform calls for completing coronavirus vaccinations in early November and accelerating preparations for third vaccine shots, as well as promoting the development and use of oral drugs in a bid to keep the number of severely ill coronavirus patients and COVID-19 fatalities to a minimum.

Komeito has also vowed to offer support for oral-drug development by Japanese firms.

The two ruling coalition parties hope that oral drugs will pave the way for the full-fledged resumption of social and economic activities. As the first step toward normalization, the LDP calls for relaxing movement restrictions for events, travel and dining out through the utilization of vaccination certificates.

Komeito aims to launch a new Go To Travel tourism promotion campaign.

In contrast, CDP leader Yukio Edano said in a speech in Sendai on Wednesday that the government has been failing to expand PCR testing, although the tests are the only way to detect the coronavirus in carriers showing no symptoms.

“Can the government really prevent a rebound in COVID-19 cases?” Edano asked.

In its policy manifesto for the election, the CDP calls for creating a system allowing anyone to take a PCR test immediately. Also in the package is a plan to require all people entering Japan from abroad to self-isolate at hotels or other facilities for at least 10 days, a stricter border control regime that currently in place in Japan.

The Japanese Communist Party (JCP) seeks to make free PCR tests available to anyone at any time.

When the fifth wave of COVID-19 infections hit the country earlier this year, experts cited the need for a legal framework that could lead to the restrictions of people’s movements.

The LDP’s platform calls for implementing a law revision to give, based on a national debate, more power to administrative authorities to curb flows of people and secure hospital beds for coronavirus patients.

Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party), which calls for balancing economic activities with coronavirus measures, is eager to introduce legislation aimed at securing necessary hospital beds and medical workers.

The Democratic Party for the People (DPP) underscores the importance of considering how movement restrictions should be and the establishment of a related law, arguing that excessive restrictions would have adverse effects.

The stances of Nippon Ishin and the DPP are similar to the position of the LDP.

By contrast, the CDP and the JCP seek to review the health ministry’s local medical initiative, which involves the consolidation of public hospitals, and to improve working conditions for medical personnel.

Reiwa Shinsengumi hopes to introduce a stay-home period of up to three months that would come with full compensation.

The Social Democratic Party aims to open temporary hospitals immediately.

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