PM criticised for attending year-end dinners in coronavirus-hit Japan

TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has drawn criticism for joining year-end get-togethers after begging the public to avoid parties as the country grapples with record numbers of coronavirus cases.

The pandemic has claimed more than 2,600 lives in the country amid 183,000 cases so far this year.

Mr Suga became prime minister in September but he has not enjoyed much of a honeymoon as public frustration grows with rising coronavirus infections.

Despite warning the public to shun big gatherings, Mr Suga attended several over the past week, stirring criticism on social media and from politicians, including from allies in his coalition.

"While asking people for self-restraint, they're eating high-end steaks and living it up," opposition member of parliament Jun Azumi told reporters, referring to a Monday dinner at a top Tokyo steak house that Mr Suga attended.

"Public support can collapse," Mr Azumi said.

One of those who attended the dinner, 76-year-old actor Ryotaro Sugi, told reporters outside the restaurant it was a "year-end party" and they had discussed baseball.


Mr Suga said on yesterday he regretted attending the dinner.

"I'm regretting that because it caused misunderstanding among the public," he said when asked about the issue.

Earlier, spokesman Katsunobu Kato said the government took the criticism seriously.

"It is important to make individual decisions based on a balance between the purposes of group meals and infection control measures," Mr Kato said. - REUTERS