No details of who said what are included in summaries of February government liaison meetings on the coronavirus that were disclosed to an opposition lawmaker.
The records itemize points of discussions without showing details of specific remarks. The opposition side says it cannot use the summaries to check the government’s policymaking process during the course of the COVID-19 crisis.
The government disclosed the records of discussions at the liaison meetings on Feb. 15, 26 and 27 at the request of Renho, a senior member of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.
The records consist of a one-page summary of discussions per day and attached materials that were distributed, apparently by government agencies. The materials were partially redacted.
On Feb. 26, the liaison meeting discussed the situation on COVID-19 infections in Japan and the government’s response to the outbreak on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, then quarantined at a port in Yokohama, according to the summary for the day.
At a subsequent meeting of its virus task force, the government decided to request voluntary restrictions on large-scale events for two weeks. The summary does not say whether the topic was discussed at the liaison meeting.
On Feb. 27, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe suddenly announced a request for the closures of elementary, junior high and senior high schools across the country at a task force meeting.
The summary for the day merely says that the education ministry explained necessary steps for the school closures at the liaison meeting, which preceded the task force meeting.
The government must create records of meetings on the novel coronavirus within three months of such sessions in accordance with its guidelines on official records management, as it designated the COVID-19 outbreak as a historic emergency, meaning records must be kept so that lessons learned from it can be passed on to future generations.
Meanwhile, the government regards coronavirus liaison meetings as study sessions for the prime minister that do not involve policymaking, saying that it is therefore unnecessary to keep detailed records.
If policy changes were discussed at liaison meetings, the government should release related documents on the debate to allow future generations to examine the process, Renho said.
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