Re-elected Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said Monday she will make preparations to launch a center for disease control in the Japanese capital as part of her campaign pledges made for a second term, to cope with the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Fresh off of a landslide victory in Sunday's gubernatorial election, Koike renewed her determination to respond firmly to coronavirus infections in the capital as the number of new daily cases reported topped 100 for the fifth consecutive day.
"I will protect Tokyoites' lives and livelihood against the coronavirus and devise an economic strategy," Koike, 67, told reporters at the Tokyo metropolitan government office in outlining her goals for her second term.
Bolstering the coronavirus response in the capital of about 14 million people has been one of her top priorities, with the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics planned for the summer of 2021 after a one-year delay caused by the pandemic.
The creation of a body similar to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is high on the governor's policy agenda. At the national level, lawmakers have stressed the need for one in Japan.
Koike said the envisioned center will analyze and evaluate data held by the Tokyo metropolitan government, local municipalities, hospitals and research institutions, and disseminate necessary information to residents in the capital.
In a meeting at the prime minister's office on Monday, Koike and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to continue working together to contain the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, and hold the Tokyo Games.
"I'd like to congratulate you on your election victory that was made possible by the powerful voices of people in Tokyo," Abe told Koike.
In response, the governor said, "It's my wish to win the fight against the novel coronavirus with the support of the central government and set the stage for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics."
Despite running as an independent without any party support, she received about 3.66 million votes, up from some 2.91 million in the previous gubernatorial race in 2016 and the second most on record following some 4.33 million votes gained by Naoki Inose in the 2012 poll.
The former defense and environment minister beat 21 challengers, including Kenji Utsunomiya, 73, a former head of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, Taro Yamamoto, 45, a former actor and leader of the anti-establishment party Reiwa Shinsengumi, and Taisuke Ono, 46, a former vice governor of Kumamoto Prefecture.
Voter turnout was 55.0 percent, down 4.73 percentage points from the last election in July 2016, which Koike won to become the first female governor of the Japanese capital.
Koike's coronavirus response appeared to have given her a boost, with 60.7 percent of voters assessing it favorably, according to Kyodo News exit polls.
Her popularity had risen in the last few months on her implementation of measures to curb infections in the capital, such as stay-at-home and business suspension requests, which seemed to mitigate the number of cases for a period.
On Monday, 102 new coronavirus infections were reported in Tokyo, bringing the capital's cumulative total to 6,867 accounting for about a third of more than 20,000 cases in Japan.
Since the central government completely lifted the nationwide state of emergency in late May and the Tokyo metropolitan government allowed businesses to fully resume on June 19, the number of daily coronavirus cases in Tokyo has been growing.
The latest daily figure compared with 131 reported on Saturday, which was the highest figure since the 154 reported on May 2. The capital's all-time high was 206 on April 17.
As for the Olympics and Paralympics, Koike pledged to coordinate with the International Olympic Committee, taking into consideration the virus situations in participating countries and policies of sports organizations.
Utsunomiya came second with 844,151 votes, followed by Yamamoto with 657,277 votes and Ono with 612,530 votes.
Split votes among the fractured opposition apparently aided Koike, with an attempt to unite behind one of her challengers falling through.
"I very much regret (the outcome). I wish I could have responded to the expectations of many Tokyo residents," said Utsunomiya, who was backed by the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and two other opposition parties.
Acknowledging defeat, Yamamoto compared Koike to a towering mountain. "Mt. Yuriko was strong and very high," he said.
In an unusual move that illustrates Koike's electoral strength, the local branch of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party did not field a candidate and told members to vote freely, although some vocally supported her.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced candidates to shift a large portion of campaigning online, including debates between candidates. Koike chose to campaign solely online, pledging to put Tokyoites first and continue with her reforms for the capital.