Asia

Japan gives another $800M to UN-backed COVAX

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga apologised on Wednesday after lawmakers from his ruling coalition visited night clubs despite his government’s call for people to avoid unnecessary outings to curb the spread of COVID-19. FILE PHOTO: Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga speaks during a meeting of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infection control headquarters at the prime minister’s office in Tokyo, Japan January 22, 2021. Kazuhiro Nogi/Pool via REUTERS
The news is another headache for Suga whose approval rating has tumbled due to dissatisfaction with his handling of the pandemic, which critics have called too slow and inconsistent. “I’m terribly sorry that this happened when we are asking people not to eat out after 8 p.m. and to avoid non-essential, non-urgent outings,” Suga told parliament. “Each lawmaker should behave to gain the public’s understanding.” ADVERTISEMENT Japan this month issued a state of emergency in Tokyo and other areas to tame a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases. The measure includes a request for restaurants and bars to close by 8 p.m. although there are currently no penalties for non-compliance. “My behaviour was careless at a time when we are asking people to be patient,” Jun Matsumoto, a senior lawmaker from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, told reporters. Matsumoto was speaking following a Daily Shincho magazine report that he had visited two night clubs in Tokyo’s posh Ginza district after dining at an Italian restaurant last Monday. ADVERTISEMENT Kiyohiko Toyama, a lawmaker from the coalition’s junior partner Komeito, also apologised after tabloid Shukan Bunshun reported he had visited a high-end night club in Ginza until late last Friday. Twitter users voiced their frustration. “It is just a matter of time before public anger explodes. I don’t want a blanket cash-payout of 100,000 yen ($965), I want them to quit! ” wrote one user. “They are really stupid. Don’t they think about what they are doing and how the public sees them? If they don’t, they are unqualified to represent the public,” said another.

Japan’s prime minister announced another $800 million to the U.N.-backed program to deploy COVID-19 vaccines for poor countries, a four-fold increase of Japanese funding to the COVAX program.

Yoshihide Suga spoke as Japan co-sponsored a fundraising event for COVAX with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which helps run the program. The program managers are seeking about $2 billion more to reach a target of $8.3 billion for its effort to fund free vaccines for low- and middle-income countries around the world.

“Now is the time for us to act,” said Suga through a translator, leading a parade of world and humanitarian leaders who announced pledges and commitments on Wednesday. He says the additional $800 million will bring Japan’s contribution to $1 billion.

Leaders from Australia, Austria, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland were among those citing their efforts to build momentum for greater equity in access to vaccines that the World Health Organization — another key COVAX partner — says is badly lacking.

Among those facing vaccine shortfalls are many of the 92 low- and middle-income countries and territories in the Advanced Market Commitment part of the COVAX program.

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Based out of Pittsburgh, PA, South Korean Born Mi-Kyung Jeon is a MASTER OF FINE ARTS (M.F.A.) from Duquesne University. She joined NYK Daily as an international Correspondent. She has previously interned at the New York Times in New York,for eleven months.


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