Majority of Japanese unhappy with progress of Covid-19 booster shots: Survey

A resident receiving a booster shot in Tokyo on Jan 31, 2022. About 73 per cent of respondents to an opinion poll felt Japan's roll-out of booster shots has been far too slow. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (REUTERS) - A vast majority of Japanese think the roll-out of booster shots against Covid-19 is too slow and give mixed reviews to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, including last week's decision to ease border rules, polls show.

Anger over the Japanese government's handling of the pandemic helped sink the administration of Mr Kishida predecessor Yoshihide Suga, and Mr Kishida faces a crucial election for the Upper House of Parliament in July.

About 73 per cent of respondents to a Kyodo news agency opinion poll over the weekend felt Japan's roll-out of booster shots has been far too slow, though 54.1 per cent approved of how it had tackled the coronavirus overall.

Only some 14.4 per cent of the population had received booster shots even though nearly 30 per cent of the country is 65 or older and at greater risk without the protection of the booster, even with Mr Kishida repeatedly promising to accelerate the programme.

Mr Kishida told a news conference last week that he has yet to receive the booster, but should get one early in March.

The booster programme has picked up steam in recent days, with more than 700,000 shots a day – nearing Mr Kishida’s goal of one million a day by the end of February.

Still, February became the deadliest month of the pandemic for Japan on Saturday, with 3,033 deaths so far this month.

Nearly half of the respondents to the two-day telephone survey said it was "too early" to loosen border controls, which have been the strictest among wealthy nations but were slammed by businesses and educators, a move set to take place in stages from March 1.

About 45.7 per cent said the decision, which will open borders to foreigners except for tourists, came too early, Kyodo said, while 34.9 per cent said it was "appropriate" and 16.3 per cent saw it as too late.

Overall, Mr Kishida's support rose slightly to 56.6 per cent although disapproval of his government edged up 2.2 points to 27.4 per cent.

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