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Japanese PM Kishida vows continued fight against COVID-19 in 1st policy speech

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Japanese PM Kishida vows continued fight against COVID-19 in 1st policy speech
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida delivers a policy speech during a plenary session at the National Diet in Tokyo on Monday. Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 17 (UPI) -- Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged to keep fighting the COVID-19 pandemic Monday in his first annual policy speech before the country's parliament, the National Diet.

Kishida, who took office in October, used the 40-minute address to promise that he would do everything in his power to prevent Japan's health system from buckling under the strain of the Omicron variant.

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"We must avoid at all costs emergency situations that may put a squeeze on hospital beds," he said in kicking off the year's first regular session of the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of the Diet.

Defending his government's decisions to impose new COVID-19-related restrictions, Kishda added, "I myself have heard Japanese people saying 'Not again, we can't take it anymore.' But we have to be mindful that the invisible enemy is much more formidable than has been anticipated."

Japan has been hit hard by the Omicron variant as records for new daily caseloads were broken in Okinawa and Hiroshima prefectures during the weekend. In Tokyo the metropolitan government reported more than 4,500 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, a sharp increase from about 4,000 the previous day.

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Kishida said Monday he will tap his popularity with Japanese people, as well as his "trust and sympathy," to overcome the crisis and protect the nation's healthcare resources while also providing more help for patients recovering at home or at hotels.

The prime ministered pledged to "calmly advance responses (against Omicron) based on the latest information, without excessive fear."

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