The Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held its first meeting using a videoconferencing system on Friday, looking to set an example amid calls to limit person-to-person interactions during the coronavirus pandemic.
Abe and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga took part in the six-minute meeting from the same room at the prime minister’s office, while other ministers called in from their respective ministry or agency offices.
The measure was implemented on a trial basis, and the government will decide whether to continue it after seeing the results of Friday’s meeting.
The video conference was conducted via Skype using the government’s secure network to ensure privacy. Abe and Suga, seated around 1.5 meters away from each other, spoke with other Cabinet ministers who they could see on a screen.
Before the meeting started, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura asked whether they could take off their face masks, to which Suga replied, “It’s better to keep them on.”
“It was good to have an opportunity for Cabinet members to see each other after a long time,” Suga said in a news conference after the meeting. The ministers had not been meeting in person for recent Cabinet decisions.
“I think there were no major problems,” he added.
Regular Cabinet meetings are held every Tuesday and Friday to make important policy decisions. The government will collect the signatures of ministers who joined the video conference remotely to complete the formal policy approval process, officials said.
Since Abe declared a state of emergency over the virus outbreak on April 7, Cabinet meetings have not been held in a conventional style. Documents on policy decisions have been handed to each minister to collect signatures, according to the officials.