Japanese Prime Minister Abe Set to Speak on Health Concerns

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to address his personal medical issues and the government’s coronavirus policies on Friday at his first full news conference since June.

The event scheduled to start at 5 p.m. comes as sparse public appearances and two hospital visits this month have fueled speculation the country’s longest-serving prime minister might step down due to a health problem. A flare-up of a chronic digestive condition previously forced him to resign after an abbreviated first term in 2007.

Top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga, however, told Bloomberg Thursday he expected Abe to serve out his term as leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which ends in September 2021.

Abe spoke for a few minutes Friday ahead of the press conference, where he told a meeting of the government’s virus task force his administration has put together a new plan to combat Covid-19 ahead of the winter flu season. He also announced a target of securing enough vaccine for the entire population of Japan by the first half of next year.

While Japan has suffered a far lower death toll from the coronavirus than other Group of Seven advanced countries, it saw the worst economic contraction on record in the April-June period, as businesses closed and people stayed home amid the outbreak.

The 65-year-old prime minister has visited Keio University Hospital twice in the past two weeks, telling reporters that he was undergoing tests to maintain his health. Although the government has provided few details, domestic media have said he was actually undergoing treatment for ulcerative colitis.

His last full-length news conference was on June 18 and he has made short public appearances since then. They included answering a few questions in Nagasaki for events marking the 75th anniversary of the World War II atomic attack by the U.S. on the city.

Abe held news conferences on almost a weekly basis in parts of April and May when Japan was battling its first major wave of the coronavirus. This made his absence noticeable just as numbers began to tick up in July and early August when an even bigger second wave, in terms of infection numbers, hit the country.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.