Japan’s Kishida cancels travel after testing positive for COVID

Japanese leader will not make trips to Tunisia, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has cancelled planned trips to Africa and the Middle East after testing positive for COVID-19.

Kishida is isolating after developing a mild fever and cough late on Saturday, and a PCR test showed he had contracted the coronavirus, said Noriyuki Shikata, the cabinet secretary for public affairs at the prime minister’s office.

“Prime Minister Kishida is isolated inside his residence,” Shikata told The Associated Press on Sunday.

The 65-year-old prime minister was scheduled to return to work on Monday after spending the last week on vacation.

Kishida will no longer attend a conference on African development later this month in Tunisia in person but will participate online. He also postponed an upcoming Middle East tour that had been scheduled to include stops in Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Japan has experienced its biggest surge in COVID cases yet in recent weeks, although most of the population has been vaccinated.

Kishida’s postponement of his overseas engagements comes as his government faces declining approval amid scrutiny of its ties to the Unification Church and its response to the pandemic.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s links to the church, which was founded in South Korea in the 1950s, have been in the spotlight since the man suspected of assassinating former premier Shinzo Abe accused the religious group of bankrupting his mother.

In a survey carried out by the Mainichi Shimbun daily over the weekend, 36 percent of respondents said they approved of Kishida’s performance, compared with 52 percent a month ago.

Kishida reshuffled his cabinet earlier this month in an effort to bolster his support, removing some cabinet members with ties to the church.

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