Japan health minister apologises for staff breaking COVID-19 protocols


People wearing protective face masks walk past at a Japanese izakaya pub alley, amid the coronaviru

People wearing protective face masks walk past at a Japanese izakaya pub alley, amid the COVID-19 outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan, Jan 5, 2021. REUTERS/Issei Kato

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TOKYO: Japan’s health minister apologised on Tuesday (Mar 30) after media reported ministry employees had gathered at a restaurant late at night in Tokyo in violation of the government’s COVID-19 contagion protocols.

Norihisa Tamura confirmed that 23 ministry employees ate dinner together on Mar 24 and that he would investigate the matter quickly, Kyodo reported.

Tokyo and three surrounding prefectures emerged from a state of emergency over COVID-19 infections on Mar 21, but the government has continued to ask restaurants to close early at 9pm and for the public to limit gatherings.

READ: Japan to accelerate COVID-19 vaccination pace in May, minister says

According to a separate report in the Yomiuri newspaper, the health ministry staffers gathered for a farewell party at a pub in the Ginza district of Tokyo, with some staying until midnight.

As of last Friday, just over 780,000 people in Japan, mostly healthcare workers, have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

While Japan has escaped the worst ravages of the pandemic seen elsewhere, cases have begun ticking up again recently, prompting concern among some officials about a potential “fourth wave” of the pandemic.

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