Japan Government Hopes Vaccine Rollout Will Strengthen Economy
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Japan Government Hopes Vaccine Rollout Will Strengthen Economy

By Elizabeth Gibson for The J-Pop Exchange

Now that the Olympics are over, the Japan government’s main goal is to increase the number of coronavirus vaccinations.
Japan Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is putting everything on the latest vaccination rollout, which started slow but now is making good progress. How this race between shots and disease finishes may have a big effect on the economy, not to mention the health of tens of thousands of Japanese citizens.

Suga’s goal right now is to maintain the current vaccination pace. If it is indeed maintained, then Japan will have 51 percent of its people vaccinated by September 12.

Even so, the Delta variant of the virus is still very much prominent in the country, as well as the rest of the world, and some citizens are calling for the government to implement more mandates and strengthen the current state of emergency. Japan has been able to manage the coronavirus pandemic better than many countries, without the kind of restrictive lockdown used in other nations, but some believe that may now be needed.

Because of this, Suga decided last Tuesday to extend the state of emergency, which was set to expire this month, to September 12.

Some say that decision won’t be enough to curtail the raging Delta variant, while others worry what a restrictive lockdown would do to the economy.

Even with many shoppers shrugging off government warnings on the virus, activity levels among retailers in Tokyo are still much lower than in New York City and London, according to Apple Mobility Trends.

“Higher vaccination coverage is clearly better to slow the spread of virus cases, and full vaccination will probably reach 60 percent, which has been a rough guideline for herd immunity, by end-September,” Yuki Masujima, an economist, told Bloomberg. “Even so, due to the Delta variant and the lower coverage among younger generations who have most of the new infections, the hurdles for a recovery remain high.”

According to Suga, the government is urgently tackling the surge of infections, and the government has repeated the same set of emergency measures that mainly target bars and restaurants, requiring them not to serve alcohol and close earlier. Department stores, entertainment facilities, and other non-essential businesses are also requested to close at 8 p.m. every night.

Even though businesses that comply with the orders could receive a daily compensation of up to 200,000 yen ($1,800) and those that defy them could be fined, thousands are defying the requirements and staying open later than 8 p.m. However, punishment and fines by the authorities is rare amid the growing criticism that claim the measures are unfairly targeting restaurants and bars.

Many Japanese citizens are claiming that the state of emergency mandates are no longer working because measures have dragged on for a year and a half now and people are tired of following the government’s requests.


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