Gov't decision to scrap advisory coronavirus panel draws flak


The Japanese government's abrupt decision last week to scrap its advisory coronavirus panel drew flak from all sides of politics, but the hastiness of the decision may have given an insight into how keen the administration is to retake control of the narrative.

Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister in charge of Japan's virus response, said on Wednesday a new entity will be created to replace the panel which has made key proposals in the nation's battle to contain the spread of the virus, including avoiding the "three Cs" -- confined and crowded places and close contact with others.

The sudden move came after the panel requested clarification of its role and status in the wake of being criticized by some in government for making recommendations about the timeline for ending curbs on society and business.

Members of the panel said the decision to cast them aside came as a complete surprise.

In fact, when economy minister Nishimura made the announcement in front of the media, the panel was holding a separate press conference to call for its role to be redefined, with Chairman Takaji Wakita, head of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, saying the panel seems to have given the impression that it rather than the government has been determining policy settings.

The decision to kill the panel quickly drew criticism from ruling and opposition parties alike.

"It is offensive (to my party) to scrap it without an explanation," said Michiyo Takagi of the Komeito party, the junior coalition partner of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. She is secretary general of Komeito's task force to address the pandemic.

The Japanese Communist Party's policy committee chief Tomoko Tamura also said the government failed to explain how the conclusion was reached.

A government source shifted the blame to Nishimura, saying he "got ahead of himself" in making the announcement.

But it revealed the government's inability to maintain clear communication channels even within the ruling party and raised questions about its capability to respond to any potential second wave of infections.

An LDP lawmaker involved in efforts to contain the virus said the expert panel "has gradually become a presence that makes (the government) uncomfortable," adding that the once close relationship soured as the extent of the economic impact of the virus became clearer, despite a waning in the spread of infections.

The panel has made a slew of key proposals to both the government and the public, to some extent demonstrating how slow the government has been in comparison.

Some panel members even considered making their proposals public in case the government did not approve and implement them.

The panel was wary of rolling back requests that the public stay home and that businesses suspend operations, while Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's office was seeking to strike a balance between restarting economic activity and maintaining virus-constraining measures.

In May, when the state of emergency withdrawal was a hot topic, a government member was irked by the panel's cautious attitude, saying, "It is the job of politicians to make decisions for the whole, including for the economy."

Atsuo Kishimoto, an Osaka University professor specializing in risk management, said the government and the panel failed to clearly define their roles which therefore left the panel to take the brunt of the criticism.

"The expert panel is tasked with assessing risks and presenting different options and each of their effects, while the government bears the role of making a selection and explaining it together with the reason for the choice, but the division (of roles) was unclear," he said.


©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Government: "Let's get rid of the experts and their advice since we don't like those experts and their advice."

17 ( +17 / -0 )

For the government and for the public its quite regrettable that the advisory panel was dissolved, specially this way; but for the health care professionals that were systematically ignored after it became clear that the health of the people was not the priority, this are welcome news.

They give advice, it gets ignored, but still they appear as if they were directing how the country deals with the pandemic, what is the point of that? People in health care are used to not being popular, but at least that is because they recommend difficult but necessary things to do, not because they appear to be doing nothing.

The problem is that this situation became quite obvious lately, the government is going to have a lot of trouble convincing new public health specialists to join the "new entity" now that they know they are going to be completely ignored to favor economic priorities. I can only fear the quality of the "experts" that they are going to include in it.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

The LDP is from the artical above totally clueless and "uncomfortable" with experts giving advice, disband the group replace it with a stacked new entity that will tow the LDPs line of bizarre logic. Personally not thinking the regiem has my family's best interests at heart.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Alarming lack of leadership

10 ( +10 / -0 )


lame duck party

9 ( +9 / -0 )

So, basically ~ The Japanese Government and that includes Koike, wants us all to wear blinders? Like a race horse to work? Cannot see anything? North Korea is looking like a great relocation destination recently.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

What 'economy' will there be when everyone is sick and close to death? Perhaps funeral parlous will be all we will have in that goal of 'economy' This isn't just here, its most of the world governments who are putting $$$ first and foremost. For the sake of strict global lockdown in the first 2-3 months, we now suffer for the next 1, 2 or more years.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Tom - Alarming lack of leadership

Not really! They do have leadership, but anyone who disagrees with them is ousted. This panel is no different. They wanted shutdowns and to empty the trains, but the gov wanted to keep Nippon Kaigi afloat. As a result, they are to be removed and replaced with a different bunch of yes-


3 ( +3 / -0 )

The situation and problem here for their action appears to be not in having yes men but to prevent dissension because of "opinions" of so called experts who themselves are not certain and who do not have public policy depth to be "suggesting" directly to the public what is correct and not correct or right and wrong ideas to have and policies to be implemented. Their scope is their expertise to give facts, analysis and advice to those that have a bigger and larger responsibility and perspective in government, and not on what the public needs or should do based upon only one aspect of what the entire society and country needs and must address without the knowledge and wisdom of the entire picture. When they over step their bounds by dictating public policies by their opinions and not for which they were assigned, those that hired would have the right to remove them. They were organized to give needed advice which was limited to their expertise with their responsibility to and for those who requested such information and not to dictate public policies through their opinions.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

I don't know what the problem is, the panel was selected by the government and from the onset did nothing but echo the government narrative. They never pressed for increased testing

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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