Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga faced renewed pressure Monday over his handling of the pandemic, with a new poll showing that 80% of people believe the government was too slow to respond to the latest wave of cases.

Opposition lawmakers also showed increasing frustration with Suga’s taciturn manner and have demanded that he provide detailed answers to questions about the COVID-19 crisis and the Tokyo Olympics, Reuters reports.

Suga acknowledged that he has a sore throat and had lost his voice, raising concerns that heavy pressure to deal with the pandemic and criticism of the administration’s response has been taking a physical toll on him, reports Satoshi Sugiyama. Although the government spokesman insisted it was nothing serious, the optics are not great for a PM on the ropes.

Suga’s support falling as virus cases rise (Jan. 18) | BLOOMBERG POLITICS
Suga’s support falling as virus cases rise (Jan. 18) | BLOOMBERG POLITICS

In the Diet, things continued much as they had last week, when in days of grilling, Suga offered few new details about how his administration will fight the raging coronavirus pandemic, and defended it from criticism that its actions had been too little, too late, Sugiyama reports.

Although Suga’s popularity continues to slide, his position is safe right now, at least. One of the men touted as a future candidate for PM, Taro Kono, was appointed head of the coronavirus vaccination drive last week, but was this meant as a reward? Or a punishment for Kono’s off-party-message comments?

As Michael Macarthur Bosack writes, only Suga and the highest level of Liberal Democratic Party executives know for sure the motivations, but it could prove to be a wise move, given that Suga can claim credit if the vaccinations go well and blame Kono if things go pear-shaped.