• Bloomberg, staff report

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Almost 90% of respondents to a Japanese poll backed the prime minister’s decision to suspend new entries by foreign nationals amid concerns about the omicron variant.

The survey by the Yomiuri newspaper carried out from Dec. 3 to 5 also found support for Prime Minister Fumio Kishida had risen 6.0 percentage points to 62%. That was one of the highest ratings for the premier, who took office two months ago, and about double that of his predecessor, Yoshihide Suga, when he was forced from office amid criticism for being slow-footed in his pandemic management.

Despite last week’s U-turn on a policy that halted new flight reservations for December, the newspaper said voters probably approved of Kishida’s rapid response to omicron, which some reports say is more contagious than previous coronavirus variants.

The Yomiuri poll found support for Kishida’s long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party up slightly at 41%, while the small right-leaning Ishin party was on 8%, almost even with the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party on 7%.

A separate poll carried out by the JNN television network reported 84% of respondents supported Kishida’s decision to ban foreign entries.

The JNN poll released Monday also showed 64% supported the Kishida Cabinet, up 4.7 percentage points from the previous month.

After his two predecessors saw their support slump rapidly amid criticism their response to the virus was sluggish, Kishida has kept infection control at the top of his agenda, with an Upper House election due next year. The closure of the borders to new foreign entrants came just weeks after Japan began a cautious re-opening for some businesspeople and students.

Virus cases and deaths have rapidly dwindled following the rollout of vaccines. Japan recorded an average of 108 cases over the week to Saturday and has seen nationwide daily deaths in single figures for about a month. The numbers are among the lowest for developed countries and well below the 108,462 cases the United States recorded on Saturday.

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