By Emeka Okafor
Japanese Prime Minister, Yoshihida Suga has appointed the country’s first Minister of Loneliness and Isolation.
The new Minister, Tetsushi Sakamoto, is also in charge of managing Japan’s failing birth rate and strengthening regional economies.
The appointment which is the first in 11 years is part of measures to tackle the rising cases of suicide in the country.
In his inaugural press conference, Sakamoto said Prime Minister Suga appointed him to address matters of national importance “including the issue of increasing women’s suicide rate under the pandemic.”
He added, “(Japan PM) Suga instructed me to examine the issue and put forward a comprehensive strategy, by coordinating with the related ministry… I hope to carry out activities to prevent social loneliness and isolation and to protect ties between people.”
Japan reported nearly 880 female suicides last October – a 70 per cent surge compared to October 2019.
Japanese suicide expert, Michiko Ueda said a “lot of women are not married. They have to support their own lives, and they don’t have permanent jobs. So when something happens, of course, they are hit very very hard.”
Following Britain’s lead, Japanese government created an isolation/ loneliness counter-measures office in its cabinet on February 19 to counter issues like suicide and child poverty.
Japan has so far reported a total of 4,26,456 COVID-19 cases whereas 7,529 Japanese people have succumbed to the contagion with 4, 01,809 recoveries.