• Kyodo

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The Cabinet on Friday decided to use ¥1.4 trillion ($13 billion) in fiscal 2021 reserve funds, mainly for additional COVID-19 vaccine purchases as well as securing medicines for patients.

Of the amount, the government allocated about ¥841.5 billion to procure more vaccines and promote its inoculation rollout as the country struggles to contain a spike in virus infections driven by the highly contagious delta variant.

Around ¥235.2 billion was earmarked to buy the medicines casirivimab and imdevimab, which are administered intravenously in an antibody cocktail treatment, Finance Minister Taro Aso told a news conference. The therapy lowers a patient’s risk of hospitalization or death, according to overseas clinical trials.

The budgetary measure came two days after Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told a news conference that the government will respond to “urgent tasks” such as securing enough vaccines and drugs for the antibody cocktail treatment by utilizing the reserve funds.

Japan, which lags behind other developed economies in its inoculation drive, aims to finish vaccinating all eligible people in the nation who wish to receive shots “at an early date” in a window of time roughly between October and November, Suga has said.

Among other expenses, ¥154.9 billion was set aside for a program providing no-interest loans of up to ¥200,000 per household for those severely affected by the pandemic, following a three-month extension of the measure to the end of November.

To keep supporting businesses that have been forced to furlough employees due to worsening business conditions under the pandemic, ¥84.1 billion was allocated. The measure was due to expire at the end of September, but has now been extended for two months.

Those moves followed the government decision earlier in the month to extend the duration and expand the target areas of its state of emergency over the virus. The measure, which currently covers 21 out of Japan’s 47 prefectures, is set to last until Sept. 12.

The government has set aside ¥5 trillion in reserve funds to deal with the pandemic under the ¥106.6 trillion initial budget for fiscal 2021 starting in April. Following Friday’s Cabinet approval, some ¥2.6 trillion remains in the funds.

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