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Ex-Japan IT minister diagnosed with COVID-19 after secretary tests positive

Former information technology minister Naokazu Takemoto is seen at the prime minister's office in this photo taken on Sept. 11, 2019. (Mainichi/Yuki Miyatake)
A thank-you letter from former information technology minister Naokazu Takemoto, which was handed out to guests to his fundraising party, is seen in this photo taken on Dec. 19, 2020. (Mainichi)

OSAKA -- Former information technology minister Naokazu Takemoto has tested positive for the coronavirus after a secretary at his Tokyo office was confirmed to have contracted the virus two days earlier, the Mainichi Shimbun has learned.

    According to a source close to his office, Takemoto, a House of Representatives member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), has since been admitted to a hospital in Tokyo after learning on Dec. 24 that he had contracted the coronavirus.

    Though the 80-year-old lawmaker reportedly has a fever, his symptoms overall are said to be mild. By Dec. 24, a total of four people linked to Takemoto's Tokyo office were confirmed to have the virus, including the secretary who learned they had it on Dec. 22, another secretary and one other man.

    Takemoto's support group held a fundraising party at an Osaka hotel on the night of Dec. 18 with some 80 guests. The function, organized as a year-end party serving food and alcohol, took place amid national government calls to refrain from dining in a group of five or more people to prevent the spread of the virus.

    According to his office, while Takemoto did not attend the dining session of the party, he did hold a roughly hour-long talk on government affairs in a separate room at the same hotel right before it. The three other people linked to Takemoto's Tokyo office who have contracted the coronavirus also reportedly did not attend the fundraising party.

    Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who presides over the LDP, recently came under fire for having dinner in a group of around eight people. Takemoto's office has apologized for holding a large event as people refrain from holding year-end parties and dining functions, saying that they were "naive" to have done it.

    Meanwhile, Takemoto told the Mainichi Shimbun, "I admit that it was inappropriate to have held a party where alcohol was served, but I wasn't informed of it and I'm not responsible."

    (Japanese original by Yuta Kumamoto and Masaki Ishikawa, Osaka City News Department)

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