COVID-19 hits many aides to Japanese PM Kishida

COVID-19 hits many aides to Japanese PM Kishida

TOKYO Kyodo - Resurging COVID 19 has hit many close aides to Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, raising concerns about day-to- day operations and the risk of him getting infected.

With Japan grappling with its seventh wave of coronaviruses, top government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno, the public face of the administration who is responsible for crisis management, tested positive for COVID 19 on July 23 and was isolated at home until he resumed in-person work on Tuesday.

Three of the eight executive secretaries to Kishida, who are responsible for the prime minister's daily schedule and policy coordination on key issues, have also tested positive in recent days.

Hirotaka Unami, who is responsible for the COVID 19 response, was the first to take isolation steps among the eight.

A secretary, Takashi Shimada, then gave up accompanying Kishida on his trip to New York from Sunday to participate in a review conference on a nuclear nonproliferation treaty due to COVID-19.

The Japanese delegation's third aide, Takayoshi Yamamoto, has been forced to stay longer than originally planned in the United States for isolation. Kishida and officials traveling with him to the UN headquarters are not considered close to each other.

When staff at the prime minister's office test positive, they work from home and their colleagues fill in when necessary, so daily operations can go without a hitch, according to officials.

A close aide to Kishida said things would have become unmanageable had there been a budget committee session. The committee deals with a wide range of issues that are critical to the government and requires the presence of the prime minister to answer questions from lawmakers.

After about a week of being away, government spokesman Matsuno said he had received reports and requests for advice from his staff while making necessary decisions even during his isolation period.

I had received three vaccine shots and taken basic anti-infection steps daily. He said at a regular press briefing on Tuesday that anyone can get infected, from my experience.

President Joe Biden continued to carry out his duties in the United States while he was in isolation after testing positive in late July.

Kishida, who returned to Japan from his U.S. trip, has made a point of wearing a mask and taking precautions against the coronaviruses. Daily counts of COVID- 19 are at record highs in Japan, fueled by the highly transmissible BA. Key events await Kishida, a lawmaker from western Japan, Hiroshima, who suffered the U.S. atomic bombing in 1945. He is expected to attend a ceremony marking the 77th anniversary on Saturday and another on Aug. 9 for Nagasaki, which was also devastated by a U.S. atomic bomb.

A person close to him said that it was important to prevent the prime minister from getting infected.