• Kyodo, staff report

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Finance Minister Taro Aso said Thursday that Japan’s relatively low mortality rate from the new coronavirus reflects the country’s higher “level of cultural standards.”

“I have received phone calls (from overseas) asking ‘Do you have any drug that only you guys have?’ My answer is the level of cultural standards is different, and then they fall silent,” said Aso, who doubles as deputy prime minister, at a parliamentary session in the House of Councilors.

Japan has seen about seven deaths from the coronavirus for every 1 million residents, Aso said, a level far below the United States, Britain and France.

“The United States imposed fines on people who broke lockdown rules, and France did so too. But we didn’t have to do such a thing, and we made it only by requesting” that people suspend nonessential businesses and stay at home, Aso said. “We should be very proud of this.”

Renho, an Upper House member of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, criticized Aso’s comments in a Twitter post, saying he “doesn’t consider the feelings of people who died of COVID-19 or their families, regardless of nationalities.”

“How superior you are, Minister Aso,” she said. “I don’t want this to be reported overseas as comments by Japan’s finance minister.”

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the COVID-19 mortality rate per 100,000 people was 0.72 in Japan, while it was 32.76 in the United States, 43.33 in France, and 59.88 in the United Kingdom as of Wednesday. The rate was relatively low in Asia, with China at 0.33 and Thailand at 0.08.

Japan has avoided an explosive surge in coronavirus infections so far, with about 17,600 cases and more than 900 deaths as of Wednesday.

The government fully lifted a state of emergency on May 25, seven weeks after the initial declaration was issued, as experts judged the spread of infections had come under control.

World Health Organization Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus hailed the result of Japan’s efforts in tackling the virus spread as a “success” after the lifting of the emergency declaration.

Nonetheless, the Japanese government is bracing for another wave of infections. Tokyo issued a warning Tuesday amid signs of a possible resurgence of virus infections, as the new cases that day marked the highest level since the lifting of the emergency.

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