National / Politics

Abe to hold first news conference on coronavirus outbreak Saturday evening

JIJI

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will hold a news conference Saturday to discuss his government’s response to the spread of the new coronavirus in the country, the government said Friday.

It will be Abe’s first news conference on the COVID-19 outbreak. He decided to meet the press apparently in response to calls for explanations from ruling and opposition parties.

Concerns are growing over his abrupt requests for voluntary restraints on large-scale events and the closure of schools across the country.

On Thursday, Abe requested the emergency nationwide closure of elementary, junior high and high schools from Monday to keep them shut until the regular spring break ends in April.

It was the day after he asked that large-scale sports and cultural events be canceled, postponed or scaled back for the next two weeks.

Abe apparently hopes to gain understanding for the government’s policy on the virus at the news conference by underlining his determination to contain the disease.

Komeito, the coalition partner of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, asked for the news conference, hoping to strengthen the government’s dissemination of information.

Opposition lawmakers, including Democratic Party for the People head Yuichiro Tamaki, said that Abe should speak out to citizens in Japan and the rest of the world.

Some critics have said that the prime minister is laying low, a senior government official said, explaining why the news conference will be held.

It is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. at the Prime Minister’s Office.

At a House of Representatives Budget Committee meeting Friday, Abe said he will explain government response to the virus crisis in detail if necessary.

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