Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga apologised on Wednesday after lawmakers from his ruling coalition had fun in nightclubs despite his government’s call for people to avoid unnecessary outings, to stay home and not mingle in crowds to curb the spread of Covid-19.
The news is another headache for Suga whose approval ratings have plunged due to dissatisfaction with his handling of the pandemic, which many are calling too slow and inconsistent, Reuters reports.
“I’m terribly sorry that this happened when we are asking people not to eat out after 8pm and to avoid non-essential outings,” Suga told parliament. “Each lawmaker should behave and try to gain the public’s understanding.”
Earlier this month, Japan declared a state of emergency until Feb 7, covering Tokyo and three nearby areas as infections continued to surge. The measure includes a request for restaurants and bars to close by mid-evening although there are currently no penalties for non-compliance.
Jun Matsumoto, a senior lawmaker from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and one of the guilty revellers, told reporters, “My behaviour was careless at a time when we are asking people to be patient.”
Matsumoto was speaking following a Daily Shincho report that on Monday night he had visited two nightclubs in Tokyo’s tony Ginza district after dining at an Italian restaurant.
Kiyohiko Toyama, a lawmaker from the coalition’s junior partner Komeito, also apologised after tabloid Shukan Bunshun reported he had visited an upscale night club in Ginza until the early hours last Friday.
Twitter users voiced their frustration, with many echoing incomprehension over the way their MPs seem to disregard how the electorate views their behaviour.
“It is just a matter of time before public anger explodes. I don’t want their apologies, I want them to quit! ” tweeted one user.
Another summed up how people felt by tweeting: “They are really stupid. Don’t they think about what they are doing and how the public sees them? If they don’t, they are unqualified to represent us.”