Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to hold a news conference Friday amid growing concerns about his health, senior government officials said Tuesday.

Abe is expected to provide an explanation about the measures his government has been taking in response to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as an update on his health condition, the officials said.

Abe “should explain (his health condition) by himself. I suppose he will tell (the public) that he is fine,” said a senior lawmaker of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party.

It would be Abe’s first official news conference at the Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo since June 18.

For the first time in two weeks, Abe started work from the morning at the Prime Minister’s Office, working there for eight hours in what some saw as an attempt to quell speculation that his health may be deteriorating.

“His voice is regaining its strength,” a source at the Prime Minister’s Office said.

Abe, whose first 2006-2007 stint as prime minister was abruptly ended by an intestinal disease called ulcerative colitis, has seemingly stayed healthy since returning to power in 2012 with the help of a new drug.

On Monday, Abe revisited Keio University Hospital in Tokyo to be informed of the results of the checkup he had a week earlier and to undergo additional tests.

“I would like to inform you all at another time,” he told reporters then.

The hospital visit put a damper on the milestone the same day of Abe becoming Japan’s longest-serving prime minister with 2,799 uninterrupted days in office, breaking the previous record held by his great-uncle Eisaku Sato.

Speculation about Abe’s health, initially triggered when a magazine reported he had vomited blood in July, has been swirling since he spent more than seven hours at the hospital on Aug. 17.

Abe is likely to fulfill his tenure as head of the ruling party, and therefore prime minister, until his term ends in September next year, one of his closest aides said Tuesday.

Akira Amari dispelled concerns over the premier’s health, saying Abe now appeared to be in much better shape than the last time Amari saw him, in mid-August. On that occasion, Abe was “probably exhausted mentally”, he said.

“I think he will fulfill his term,” Amari, the head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s tax panel, said when asked whether the premier would stay on as head of the party until next September.

Amari said that when he saw Abe on television on Monday, his “voice was stronger and the color had returned to his skin”.

The prime minister was probably concerned about his chronic illness as he has been under stress but he appeared to be confident again after consulting doctors, he said.

Amari also said Abe was expected to carry out personnel reshuffles for both the LDP and the Cabinet in September.

He denied a possibility that Abe would dissolve the Lower House for a snap general election soon.

“There won’t be a snap election for the time being,” he said. “It’s something only the prime minister can decide. He is saying he will do his best to combat the coronavirus pandemic, there won’t be (a snap election) for the time being.”

Amari has played a key role in deploying the prime minister’s Abenomics stimulus policies and is considered among the closest associates of Abe.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.