Health minister Katsunobu Kato said Tuesday that the number of people infected with COVID-19 in Japan had doubled in the week since the government declared a state of emergency over the epidemic, on April 7.
“Patient numbers have doubled in Tokyo, in the seven prefectures (subject to the emergency declaration) and nationwide,” Kato said in a news conference after a Cabinet meeting.
The minister pointed out that some 70 percent of cases in the week through Monday occurred in the seven prefectures covered by the emergency declaration — Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa, Osaka, Hyogo and Fukuoka.
“We need to look at the situation in the medium-to-long term,” Kato said, noting days in which the number of new infections seemed to have stopped growing. “It is not appropriate to look at the numbers on a day-by-day basis.”
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government confirmed 161 cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, marking the first rise in three days. The infections, which compare with a record 197 new cases marked Saturday, bring the total number of infections in the capital to 2,319, according to metropolitan government data.
Nationwide, 336 new cases were confirmed so far on Tuesday, bringing the total cases confirmed in the country to 8,027, NHK reported. Fifteen deaths were reported the same day, including five in Tokyo, with the cumulative total in Japan totaling 157, the report added.
More than 80 percent of the public believes the government should compensate businesses that have complied with a request to suspend operations in response to a surge in cases in Tokyo and other parts of Japan, according to a Kyodo News survey released Monday.
Conducted by telephone over the four days through Monday, 80.4 percent of respondents from across Japan said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s declaration of a state of emergency last week in Tokyo, Osaka and five other prefectures came too late.
Reflecting such criticism, the public approval rating for Abe’s Cabinet fell 5.1 percentage points from the previous survey in late March, to 40.4 percent. The disapproval rate came to 43 percent.
According to the latest survey, 82 percent said the government should compensate businesses in exchange for suspending operations to prevent the coronavirus from spreading, while 12.4 percent said they saw no such need.
Under the declaration, effective through May 6, prefectural governors can request that businesses halt operations, although it ws not legally binding.
While 80.4 percent were dissatisfied with the timing of Abe’s state of emergency, only 16.3 percent said it was an appropriate act.
The survey showed 75.1 percent appreciate Abe’s declaration while 20.8 percent do not appreciate it.
Asked whether they think the number of new COVID-19 cases would fall during the monthlong state of emergency, only 26.5 percent said yes, while 68.9 percent said they did not think it would.
The survey showed 76.2 percent do not appreciate the government’s decision to send two cloth masks to each of the roughly 50 million households in Japan, while 21.6 percent said they appreciate it.
The distribution, which will start later this month, has been criticized as a waste of taxpayer money, with many doubting its efficacy in preventing the spread of the virus.
Even some members of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party have raised questions about the distribution of what critics ridicule as “Abenomask” — which means “Abe’s mask” but is also a play on the prime minister’s economic policy mix known as “Abenomics.”
“At a time when medical circles are suffering from a mask shortage, the government’s way of communicating information was divorced from reality,” former Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said.
The survey respondents were also critical of the government’s plan to provide ¥300,000 to some households as part of efforts to cushion the economic impact of the pandemic, with only 20.4 percent saying the measure is appropriate and 10.7 percent believing the amount is not sufficient.
A total of 60.9 percent said the government should provide a uniform cash handout to each household.
The handout only applies to those whose income has fallen by more than half, or slipped to a level that would allow residential tax exemptions due to the outbreak of the virus.
“It is likely 80 percent of households will not be able to receive the handout,” a former LDP executive said, requesting anonymity. “It would have been better to give a flat ¥100,000 to every person.”
The survey also found the respondents were pessimistic about the government’s largest-ever ¥108 trillion stimulus package, with 72.1 percent saying they do not expect much from it and 23.4 percent saying otherwise.
Support for the LDP fell 3.9 points from the March survey to 33.1 percent, although it was still far ahead of other rivals. The main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan came second at 7.7 percent.
Those who responded that they do not support any party rose 2.5 points to 39.3 percent.
Former LDP Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba was tapped by 18 percent of respondents as most suitable to be the next prime minister, followed by Abe at 16.8 percent and Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi at 7.2 percent.
Participants in the survey were selected through random digital dialing, also known as RDD, in which telephone numbers are generated at random by a computer.
Of the 741 households with eligible voters dialed, 515 responded, while 513 of the 1,206 mobile numbers contacted gave responses.