Japan PM Kishida vows to “prepare for worst” for Omicron variant in policy speech

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Monday vowed to “prepare for the worst” in dealing with the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 while still promoting the economic recovery of the country.

In his policy speech at the beginning of an extraordinary parliamentary session, Kishida also voiced hope for further debate on constitutional revision and pledged to conclude a sweeping review of security policy in about a year.

Although the COVID-19 situation in Japan has significantly improved, Kishida warned of “new risks including the confirmation of the Omicron variant across a number of countries.”

“We will maintain our stance of being cautious and prudent,” the prime minister said, adding Japan has added 10,000 hospital beds for COVID-19 patients since the summer and would possibly approve the use of an oral treatment drug later this month.

He said the digital certificates for people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 would be ready to give out on Dec. 20 by the government.

Referring to a decision to ban new entries of foreigners into Japan due to concerns over the Omicron variant, Kishida said he is “ready to accept criticism that I’m being too cautious before we have an adequate grasp of the situation.”

Moreover, the prime minister pledged to support businesses and workers adversely affected by the impact of the pandemic through an enormous stimulus package, funded mostly with a record 36 trillion yen (319 billion U.S. dollars) fiscal 2021 supplementary budget expected to be passed by parliament during the extraordinary session.

Regarding the constitutional reform, Kishida emphasized that lawmakers “have a responsibility to seriously consider” whether or not to amend the supreme law.

“In a time of rapid change, we should spark wide debate among the public on whether the current Constitution is fitting for today,” he said.

Kishida said the government would “drastically” increase tax incentives for firms to raise wages in response to his promise of achieving his “new capitalism”, which not only sparks growth in the Japanese economy but also redistributes wealth to the middle class.

In order to promote digital technology, he said his government would lay underwater cables around Japan to form a “superhighway” for high-speed internet.

The extraordinary parliamentary session started Monday afternoon and would run through Dec. 21.

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