Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe returned to hospital on Monday for more medical checks, a government spokesman said, a week after a first visit that fuelled growing speculation about his health.

"I've been told today he will receive additional testing after a check-up" last week, government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told reporters at a regular briefing.

"I see him every day and I don't see any change in him," Suga said, in response to questions about Abe's health.

There has been growing speculation about whether the prime minister is sick, possibly with a recurrence of the ulcerative colitis that plagued him during a first term in office and contributed to his resignation just one year into the job.

Even before the unexpected visit to the hospital last week there had been reports in local media claiming Abe was vomiting blood, and confidantes publicly expressed concern that the prime minister was in need of rest.

On August 17, Abe sparked a media frenzy with a previously unannounced visit to the same hospital where he was treated after his resignation.

He spent more than seven hours at the facility, with aides saying he was undergoing health checks but giving no further details. He had already completed his regular check-up in June, raising questions about what the visit involved.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has faced persistent speculation about whether his health problems have returned. Photo: AFP / Kazuhiro NOGI

On his return to office in 2012, Abe said he had overcome the ulcerative colitis.

The speculation about Abe's health comes as he breaks the country's record for the longest consecutive term as prime minister.

He was already the country's longest-serving prime minister, counting his first and second terms in office.

But as of Monday, he has been in power for 2,799 uninterrupted days, breaking the record previously set by his great uncle Eisaku Sato.

The record comes at a difficult time for Abe, who in addition to his possible health woes faces plummeting public support thanks to his handling of the coronavirus.

A poll published Sunday by the Kyodo news agency found the approval rating for his cabinet stands at 36 percent, the second lowest since he returned to office in 2012.

The survey conducted over the weekend found 58.4 percent were unhappy with the government's handling of the coronavirus.

While Japan has seen a comparatively small outbreak -- with nearly 62,000 infections and close to 1,200 deaths -- Abe has been slammed for his economic response as well as a widely mocked programme to distribute reusable cloth face masks.

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