Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga apologized on Wednesday after lawmakers from his ruling coalition visited night clubs in spite of his government's call for people to avoid unwanted outings to control the spread of COVID-19. The news is another annoyance for Suga whose approval rating has tumbled due to dissatisfaction with his handling of the pandemic, which critics have called too slow and inconsistent.
"I'm terribly sorry that this happened when we are asking people not to eat out after 8 p.m. and to avoid non-essential, non-urgent outings," Suga told parliament. "Each lawmaker should behave to gain the public's understanding."
Japan this month issued a state of emergency in Tokyo and other areas to tame a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases. The measure includes a request for restaurants and bars to close by 8 pm. though there are presently no penalties for non-compliance. "My behavior was careless at a time when we are asking people to be patient," Jun Matsumoto, a senior lawmaker from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, told reporters.
Matsumoto was speaking following a Daily Shincho magazine report that he had visited two night clubs in Tokyo's posh Ginza district after dining at an Italian restaurant last Monday. Kiyohiko Toyama, a lawmaker from the coalition's junior partner Komeito, also apologized after tabloid Shukan Bunshun reported he had visited a high-end night club in Ginza until late last Friday.