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The government plans to continue its efforts to beef up the country’s disaster preparedness, Hachiro Okonogi, minister for disaster management, said in a recent interview.

Okonogi reiterated his intention to continue efforts even after the government’s three-year initiative to increase the country’s disaster resilience expires at the end of March next year.

The government plans to consider new goals and measures while securing sufficient funding, Okonogi said.

Referring to torrential rains in the southwest in July, Okonogi said municipalities made all-out efforts to avoid the “3Cs” of closed, crowded and close-contact settings at evacuation centers in an effort to prevent coronavirus infection.

During the rain disaster, many people evacuated to different places such as the homes of acquaintances, rather than gathering at designated evacuation centers, he said, which made it difficult for the authorities to grasp the circumstances of affected residents outside evacuation shelters.

“It’s important to use the lessons learned from the experience to prepare for the next disaster,” Okonogi said.

The minister underlined the importance of digital transformation for disaster management so information can be shared faster and it is easier for residents and municipalities to follow necessary procedures, such as applying for disaster-victim certificates.

In a separate interview, Okonogi, who doubles as National Public Safety Commission chairman, said police need to enhance measures against cybercrimes amid Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s promotion of the digital overhaul of administrative work.

“The number of malicious crimes is increasing in cyberspace, which is becoming increasingly essential to daily life,” Okonogi said. “Addressing such a threat is an important challenge.”

The commission plans to digitize driver’s licenses by using My Number social security and taxation identification cards, according to the chairman.

“It’s necessary to add functions that will improve convenience for people and introduce security measures to prevent misuse,” said Okonogi.

The number of young people involved in cannabis cases is increasing significantly, as hesitation about using the drug is weaker among them, he said.

The chairman called on celebrities to cooperate on discouraging young people from using the drug.

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