Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited a hospital on Monday, raising concerns about whether he is still fit enough to lead the nation through a pandemic and an economic downturn.
Abe entered Keio University Hospital in the Shinanomachi district of Tokyo at about 10:30 a.m. His aide and a hospital official told reporters the visit was a followup on his regular medical check-up in June.
“The prime minister is visiting a hospital for a daylong checkup during the summer break as he has hardly had any days off recently and would like to be in his best condition after the break is over,” a source close to the prime minister said.
Abe left the hospital at about 6 p.m.
The hospital visit comes amid rising speculation about Abe’s health. The prime minister appears to be exhausted by his administration’s efforts to contain the novel coronavirus and the relentless criticism being directed at him.
Opposition parties are demanding Abe convene an extraordinary Diet session to discuss further measures against the outbreak and to hold the administration accountable for its response so far.
Health problems have caused Abe to lose the prime ministership in the past.
In September 2007, he resigned when his chronic ulcerative colitis worsened about 13 months into his first term. Reports that his condition is being aggravated could jeopardize his remaining time in office and impact the race to find his successor.
Abe’s fatigue was apparent as recently as Aug. 9, when he was holding a news conference in Nagasaki to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing. Speaking in a hoarse voice, he appeared distracted when a reporter asked him a question and stuttered multiple times while reading his prepared answer.
His Cabinet, meanwhile, has seen its public approval ratings fall. Even a survey by the right-leaning Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper released last week showed a disapproval rating of 54 percent, the highest since his second tenure began in December 2012.
Akira Amari, a veteran Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker and one of Abe’s confidants, expressed concern about the prime minister’s health on a Sunday morning TV program. Amari said Abe needed to take a break “even forcefully for a few days.”
Still, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga stressed earlier this month that Abe’s health was fine, repudiating a tabloid magazine report that had said Abe coughed up blood at his office on July 6.