Following Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto is being criticized by the public for flouting the country’s COVID-19 guidelines and attending a group dinner with over five people. While it has become uncertain that the Tokyo Olympics, which have already been postponed for a year, will go ahead in July 2021 due to the emergence of a new variant strain of COVID-19 from the U.K., the country’s Olympic minister has violated the country’s COVID-19 guidelines. To make matters worse, a scandal over Japan’s foreign minister Toshimitsu Motegi’s possible breach of electoral laws has emerged, sending the approval ratings for Suga’s cabinet into a nosedive.
Olympic Minister Hashimoto on Monday admitted that she had had a dinner with five other people at a fancy sushi restaurant in Tokyo on Dec. 17 when asked about a report by a weekly magazine. She explained that it was supposed to be a dinner with two other guests but other guests joined later, temporarily making them a party of six.
The Japanese government on Dec. 11 called for its citizens to refrain from dining out with more than five people in order to contain the spread of COVID-19. However, Prime Minister Suga had a dinner with eight other people, including ruling Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai. A day after the prime minister made an official apology on Dec. 16, the Olympic minister broke the guidelines again and had a group dinner. Meanwhile, Toshihiro made a poor excuse about the gathering on Sunday, saying it was just for the exchange of opinions.
According to the Yomiuri Shimbun on Monday, the approval rating for Suga’s cabinet nosedived to 45 percent, dropping by 16 percentage points from the previous month. An Nihon Keizai opinion poll showed that only 42 percent, a 16 percentage points decrease from the previous poll, said they support the Suga cabinet, while 48 percent said they do not support the Suga cabinet.