• Jiji

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Opposition parties on Monday criticized the handling of the novel coronavirus epidemic by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government, especially in providing relief to hard-hit businesses, as the state of emergency was fully lifted.

Yukio Edano, leader of the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, said much needed financial support had not been delivered quickly enough to struggling business operators.

“It’s extremely unfortunate that (the government) was clumsy in its administrative procedures and was not fully prepared to respond” to the emergency, Edano told reporters.

Abe announced Monday that he had lifted the state of emergency declared over Hokkaido and the Tokyo metropolitan area since April ahead of the originally set end date of May 31.

But there has been criticism from business operators of the government’s relief measures, including complaints about the complexity of the relief application system and the limited amounts of funding available.

“Bankruptcy and job losses will become marked from now on if we do not implement solid countermeasures,” Edano said.

Akira Koike, deputy head of the Japanese Communist Party, said at a news conference that while there was a need to improve medical preparedness and increase virus testing in the event of a second wave of infections, further steps to support businesses should be taken even after restrictions are removed.

“It’s unacceptable to say it’s all over now, just because the declaration has been lifted,” he said.

Yuichiro Tamaki, leader of the Democratic Party for the People, called for the establishment of an independent body to review the government’s response to the viral outbreak and discuss how society should adapt to lifestyle changes caused by the virus.

“We can’t regain demand and income already lost. We have to take steps that will bring new economic growth,” he told reporters.

Meanwhile, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party welcomed the end of the state of emergency as a step toward balancing the revitalization of the economy with preventing the spread of the virus.

“We will endeavor to return the economy to normality as soon as we can, without letting our guard down over a potential second wave (of the virus),” said Fumio Kishida, the party’s policy chief.

A member of the LDP’s coalition partner Komeito said continued financial support was needed for small and medium-sized businesses as “customers won’t necessarily come back just because (the emergency) has been lifted.”

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