March 31 (UPI) -- Former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi called on current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to resign over corruption scandals as the country braces for a spike in coronavirus cases.
In an interview with local weekly magazine Shukan Asahi, Koizumi said Abe is responsible for an under-the-table land sale linked to Japanese first lady Akie Abe. The deeply discounted government land to Moritomo Gakuen, a school foundation with links to the first lady, culminated in the resignation of Tokyo's tax chief and the suicide of a government worker after the sale was first reported in 2017.
"Anyone can see [Abe] interfered" with the case, Koizumi said.
"Prime Minister Abe has said, 'I will resign if I or my wife had interfered.' Since he has said he will resign before parliament, ultimately he cannot but help but take responsibility."
The former prime minister also said Abe's long-term powers are having a corruptive effect, citing the cherry blossom viewing scandal first reported in 2019. Taxpayers fund the public event, but Abe reportedly handpicked guests who are his supporters.
"It seems a long-term stay in office has boosted his self-confidence," Koizumi had said.
Koizumi's criticism of Abe, who served as his chief cabinet secretary, comes at a time when Japan may soon witness a surge in COVID-19 infections.
Japan's criteria for COVID-19 testing have resulted in people with mild symptoms being denied the tests, according to the Nikkei.
Former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, a critic of the Abe administration, said Tokyo had enforced policies to make the "number of patients look smaller" before the postponement of the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Concern is rising Tokyo could go on coronavirus lockdown, as reported cases surpassed 1,900 and 56 people have died from the disease.
Japan's Sankei Shimbun reported a lockdown could have a severe impact on the economy, leading to more than $46 billion in lost revenue.
According to Daiichi Seimei Research Institute's chief economist Kumano Hideo, the lockdown of Tokyo would be like "blocking the flow of blood to the head," the report says.