TOKYO • Japan's Parliament yesterday cleared legislation that promises coronavirus vaccinations free of charge to its 126 million residents, with the central government footing the bill as the nation battles record numbers of daily infections.
The legislation's passage comes two weeks after Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the country was on "maximum alert" over the virus, and as medics warned hospitals are on the brink of collapse.
Under a Bill passed by the Upper House of Parliament yesterday following approval in the more powerful Lower House, local governments will be responsible for administering the immunisations, according to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.
The Bill also permits the government to compensate private companies for any losses caused by health problems stemming from the vaccinations.
The move comes as a new wave of virus infections prompted the worst-hit areas to call on bars and restaurants to close early, and forced Mr Suga to partially suspend a travel incentive programme intended to shore up suffering regional economies.
Japan has seen a comparatively small Covid-19 outbreak - with around 2,100 deaths and 150,000 cases - and has not imposed the strict lockdowns seen elsewhere. But it is now facing a third wave of the disease, reporting record numbers of daily infections.
Tokyo's governor has urged residents to avoid non-essential outings and asked businesses serving alcohol to shut early, although there is no enforcement mechanism for these recommendations.
The country has secured vaccines for 60 million people from Pfizer, and for a further 25 million from Moderna. It will also receive 120 million doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine.
BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE