Japan approves 3rd extra budget to bolster anti-virus measures

Tokyo, Jan 29 : The Japanese parliament has approved a third extra budget for fiscal 2020 with the 19.18 trillion yen ($185 billion) allocation to fund further measures to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

The supplementary budget passed on Thursday in Parliament’s upper chamber for enactment after passing the lower house a day earlier, so swift measures can be taken by the government to curb the ongoing third wave of the pandemic, reports Xinhua news agency.

The surge in infections resulted in Prime Minster Yoshihide Suga, under fire from opposition parties and the public for the government’s slow response in tackling the resurgence, declaring a month-long state of emergency for 11 of Japan’s 47 prefectures, including Tokyo.

The government has earmarked 4.36 trillion yen from the latest extra budget for measures to curb the further spread of the virus, including financial provisions being made for restaurants and bars that have shortened their opening hours as requested by local prefectures.

This sum will also be used to secure more beds to treat Covid-19-positive patients as the number of patients self-quarantining continues to skyrocket nationwide, with overburdened facilities forced to turn away infected individuals.

Recent data from the Health Ministry showed that the number of people self-quarantining after contracting the virus climbed from 1,096 carriers on November 4, 2020, to 6,429 on December 9, 2020, before surging to 17,484 on January 6, and 35,394 patients on January 20.

The government has also allocated 1.03 trillion yen to extend the highly contentious “Go To Travel” state-subsidised program aimed at supporting the country’s ailing tourism industry.

Launched in July 2020, the program was suspended last month owing to the virus’ resurgence.

The program has come under harsh criticism from political, medical and public quarters for effectively encouraging the virus’ spread around Japan.

Recent research conducted at a prominent Japanese university indicated that the campaign may have caused travel-related Covid-19 cases to increase by nearly seven times.

Meanwhile, the budget also includes 2 trillion yen for the creation of a fund to support firms spearheading eco-friendly and green technology as the country moves towards its target of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The extra budget enacted on Thursday is part of the government’s stimulus package worth 73.6 trillion yen.

The fiscal 2021 draft budget totalling a record 106.61 trillion yen was submitted to the lower house last week together with the fiscal 2020 third extra budget and will likely be approved before the end of March.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-generated from IANS service.

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