TOKYO: Japan’s economy minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, tasked with leading the government’s COVID-19 pandemic response, defended his job on Wednesday (Jul 14) after criticism of his handling of lockdown measures on bars and restaurants.
Nishimura caused an uproar last week after suggesting that banks put pressure on restaurants and bars which defy the government’s lockdown measures and that beverage makers stop doing trade with them.
He has since taken back the suggestions and apologised.
Some opposition lawmakers are calling on Nishimura to step down, according to Japanese media.
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“I regret the confusion and great concern I caused for the restaurant and beverage industries,” Nishimura said in parliament on Wednesday.
“My responsibility is in controlling the spread of infections, and ensuring an economic recovery from it.”
The controversy has created a new headache for Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, already under pressure with the Tokyo Olympics set to start in nine days even amid a rise in COVID-19 infections in Tokyo. Suga also apologised on Wednesday.
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