• Kyodo

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Over 60% of people in Japan are dissatisfied with the progress of the nation's COVID-19 vaccine rollout that is trailing many developed countries, a Kyodo News poll showed, with a little more than 100 days to go before the opening of the Tokyo Olympics.

The figure of 60.3% in the nationwide telephone poll conducted from Saturday through Monday compared with 36.5% who said they were satisfied. The country began inoculating about 36 million people aged 65 or older on Monday after beginning its campaign with health care workers on Feb. 17.

Out of the 4.8 million health care workers, those who had received at least one vaccine dose represented about 0.87% of the population as of Saturday, while the rate surpasses 10% in each of the other Group of Seven countries, including 47.15% in Britain, according to researchers at the University of Oxford.

In the poll, 92.6% said they felt anxious about a resurgence of novel coronavirus infections, with 56.5% disapproving of the government's handling of the pandemic and 35.9% expressing approval.

Amid lingering concern over a fourth coronavirus wave and the slow progress of vaccination, the poll found 39.2% believed the postponed Olympics and Paralympics should be canceled, while 32.8% thought they should be rescheduled. Only 24.5% responded that the games should be held as scheduled.

The figures were almost the same as the previous survey in March.

The approval rating for Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's Cabinet stood at 44.0%, up 1.9 percentage points from the previous survey. The disapproval rate declined to 36.1% from 41.5%.

The governors of Tokyo, Kyoto and Okinawa prefectures enhanced their responses to the coronavirus pandemic Monday amid a rebound in infections despite Japan having fully lifted a second COVID-19 state of emergency less than a month ago.

The governors followed Osaka, Hyogo and Miyagi prefectures in taking stronger steps under a quasi-state of emergency, including asking restaurants and bars in densely populated areas to close by 8 p.m.

The surge in virus infections has further raised skepticism about holding the games this summer and has also led the Olympic torch relay to be canceled in Osaka Prefecture. The relay was initially planned to take place on roads across the prefecture on Tuesday and Wednesday.

In the survey, only 13.2% said the torch relay, which started on March 25 in Fukushima Prefecture, should continue until it passes through all of Japan's 47 prefectures before the Olympic opening ceremony on July 23.

Of the respondents, 49.3% said the relay should be canceled in areas with severe coronavirus infection and 35.9% said it should be called off entirely.

On the best timing for the next general election, which must be held by fall, 60.1% of respondents said at the end of the four-year term of House of Representatives members in October, while 25.7% said after the Tokyo Paralympics end in September and 7.1% said before the Tokyo Olympics open in July.

Suga said in a television interview earlier this month that he could call a snap election before his term as leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party ends on Sept. 30.

The most popular choice to be Japan's next prime minister was Taro Kono, the administrative and regulatory reform minister also in charge of vaccination efforts, who was favored by 20% of the respondents.

Former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba was second with 13.5%, followed by Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi at 10.3%. Suga's predecessor Shinzo Abe was favored by 9.5%, while Suga himself was fifth with 4.9%.

The survey, covering 656 randomly selected households with eligible voters and 1,185 mobile phone numbers, yielded responses from 508 and 507 people, respectively.

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