TOKYO (JAPAN) – Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is facing mounting pressure over his handling of the pandemic as a new opinion poll showed many believed the government was too slow to respond to the latest wave of infections.
He is also being criticised by the oppositio, who are demanding detailed answers to questions about the COVID-19 crisis and the Tokyo Olympics.
Despite launching a slew of measures to contain the latest wave of COVID infections, Suga is struggling to halt a steady decline in support for his four-month-old government.
Support for Suga’s cabinet dropped to 33% from 39% last month, with disapproval rising 10 points to 45%, according to a poll published by the a local media.
The poll conducted by telephone on the weekend showed 80% of respondents thought the government was too slow to declare a state of emergency to curb the pandemic wave.
Critics also say Suga took too long to pause a domestic tourism campaign that some experts say have added to the spread of the virus beyond the initial hotspots in the Tokyo region.
Yoshihito Niki, an infectious disease specialist and professor at Showa University Hospital, agreed the government should have halted the campaign earlier.
“It is clear that was problematic, not just because it may have contributed to rise in case numbers by people travelling around the country, but also by giving young people an impression that they could lower their guard,” he said.
According to data released over the weekend, Japan’s third, and most deadly, wave of COVID-19 infections was peaking.
Tokyo recorded 986 new cases on Sunday. Japan has had a total of 365,723 cases of the novel coronavirus and 5,120 deaths, state media reported.
Suga said that despite the fall in cases in Tokyo the government was in no rush to lift the state of emergency.
“Experts indicate that it is necessary to look at the situation a little more to determine that it is a decreasing trend,” he told parliament.
Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said the government would not end the emergency even if cases in Tokyo dropped below 500 a day.
An Upper House steering committee petitioned Suga’s office to provide detailed responses during future debates, according to local news papers.
“To get over it with an abstract, really short answer is the same as rejecting to explain it to the people,” said opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker Tetsuro Fukuyama.
The reports were rife that officials in Tokyo had abandoned hope of holding the Tokyo games, Suga is standing by the government’s commitment to host the it.
Opinion polls showed that the public is strongly against holding the Games in the current situation.
Nihon University political science professor Tomoaki Iwai said Suga was “not a great communicator” but his leadership was not currently in doubt.
“There are no strong candidates to replace him. Chances are the current government will drag on despite very weak public support, which would be quite tragic,” he said.