Japanese Prime Minister apologizes after lawmakers nightclub outings

© Reuters. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga speaks during a meeting on COVID-19 in Tokyo

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga apologized Wednesday after his ruling coalition lawmakers visited nightclubs despite his government urging people to avoid unnecessary trips to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The news is another problem for Suga, whose approval rating has fallen due to dissatisfaction with his handling of the pandemic, which critics have described as being too slow and inconsistent.

“I am terribly sorry that happened when we asked people not to eat out after 8pm and to avoid non-essential, non-urgent trips,” Suga told Parliament.

“Every legislator should act in order to gain the understanding of the public.”

Japan imposed a state of emergency in Tokyo and other areas this month to tame a surge in COVID-19 cases. The measure includes asking restaurants and bars to close by 8 p.m., although there are currently no penalties for violations.

“My behavior was careless at a time when we are asking people to be patient,” Jun Matsumoto, a senior lawmaker for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, told reporters.

Matsumoto spoke after a report in Daily Shincho magazine that he visited two nightclubs in Tokyo’s posh Ginza neighborhood after eating at an Italian restaurant last Monday.

Kiyohiko Toyama, a lawmaker for the coalition’s junior partner Komeito, also apologized after tabloid Shukan Bunshun reported he had been to a high-end nightclub in Ginza until late last Friday.

Other incidents have fueled public anger.

LDP lawmaker Nobuteru Ishihara was rushed to hospital despite showing no symptoms after testing positive for the novel coronavirus on Friday.

In Japan, however, more than 35,000 people are recovering at home as hospitals struggle to provide beds for COVID-19 patients, and at least 25 people have died at home, according to a recent poll by broadcaster TBS.

“I can’t feel sorry for the people who died in agony in their own four walls after they couldn’t find a hospital,” said a Twitter user.

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