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Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told regional revitalization minister Tetsushi Sakamoto on Friday to oversee government efforts to address the issue of loneliness and isolation, which is becoming increasingly serious amid the novel coronavirus epidemic.

Tetsushi Sakamoto currently serves as regional revitalization minister. | KYODO
Tetsushi Sakamoto currently serves as regional revitalization minister. | KYODO

“Women are suffering from isolation more (than men are), and the number of suicides is on a rising trend. I hope you will identify problems and promote policy measures comprehensively,” Suga told Sakamoto at a meeting.

At a news conference later in the day, Sakamoto said, “I hope to carry out activities to prevent social loneliness and isolation and to protect ties between people.”

He revealed plans to hold an emergency forum in late February to listen to opinions from those helping people who face loneliness and isolation and discuss support measures. Suga plans to attend the forum.

Amid the spread of infections, combating loneliness and isolation, which are linked to such issues as poverty, social withdrawal and suicide, is an urgent task.

Some lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party have been voluntarily studying the issue.

Since the issue involves multiple agencies, the government will set up a secretariat in the Cabinet Secretariat, with Sakamoto playing a central role in putting policy initiatives into practice.

Sakamoto is also in charge of promoting dynamic engagement of all citizens and measures for the declining birthrate.

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