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Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Wednesday that he’s unable to take an “optimistic” view on Japan’s coronavirus situation.

“Although the number of new COVID-19 infections has been on the decline recently, we should not be optimistic” about the situation, Kishida cautioned at a plenary meeting of the House of Councillors, the upper chamber of the Diet.

He also said that the government will actively back research and development of Japan-made oral COVID-19 treatments.

Kishida made the remarks in response to questions by Natsuo Yamaguchi, head of Komeito, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s junior coalition partner, during the third and final day of question-and-answer sessions attended by representatives of the ruling and opposition parties. The sessions have been focused on Kishida’s first policy speech as the country’s leader, delivered before the Diet last week.

“Now that the coronavirus situation has calmed down, we will prepare for many kinds of possible scenarios and work on ensuring the security of the people,” Kishida said, answering questions from Toranosuke Katayama, co-leader of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party).

Kishida said he will ask relevant officials and bodies by the end of this week to present an overall outline of the government’s coronavirus measures.

Touching on the issue of money and politics, Yamaguchi requested that the country amend a related law as soon as possible so that lawmakers whose elections to the Diet have been nullified are required to return their salaries.

“As LDP president, I will encourage debate within the party” on the matter, Kishida said.

The LDP and Komeito have drawn up an outline of a bill to revise the law on lawmakers’ salaries to oblige those whose elections were invalidated to return 40% of their salaries.

Meanwhile, Katayama asked Kishida to share his view on constitutional revisions, as head of the LDP.

“I hope that discussions at the commissions on the Constitution (in both chambers of the Diet) will be even more animated,” Kishida said in response, “and go beyond the boundaries of the ruling and opposition parties.”

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