Morning Alert   -   Monday, February 10, 2020
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Morning news

Most networks led with reports that the Health Ministry announced on Sunday that the test results for 57 additional people on board the Diamond Princess became available and six of them were found to be infected with the new coronavirus, bringing the total number of infected people on board to 70. One of the six people is an American passenger in her 70s who lives in Hong Kong and the other five are crewmembers from the Philippines and Ukraine. According to the reports, all six have been transferred to medical institutions and none of them have serious symptoms. NHK also reported that eight other people onboard the ship who are not infected with the virus have fallen ill and have been transferred to hospitals. The network said about 3,600 people remain on the cruise ship, about half of whom are in their 70s or older. NTV reported that while the medications requested by about 500 passengers were delivered on Sunday, many passengers are still waiting for theirs.

Several networks reported that the operator of the Diamond Princess announced on Sunday that it will offer a full refund of the fees paid by the passengers for the cruise and the extra 14 days.

Fuji TV led with a report that Japanese figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu won the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships on Sunday.

No newspapers were published this morning because of a press holiday.


Diamond Princess passengers concerned about lack of medicine

Sunday's Nikkei and Yomiuri reported on a serious shortage of medicine aboard the Diamond Princess, noting that many elderly passengers are concerned because they are running out of the prescription medications that keep them alive. According to the papers, the GOJ has arranged a system in coordination with the cruise operator to deliver drugs to those who need them.

U.S. Embassy comments on Diamond Princess situation

NHK reported in its 7 p.m. news on Saturday on a comment released by the U.S. Embassy regarding the status of the American passengers aboard the Diamond Princess. "We recognize that it is best for them to remain on the ship," the Embassy was quoted as saying. "We are in close contact with the Japanese government to ensure that the passengers are provided with the necessary food and medication." The comment was aired following a report on the quarantined passengers, including an American couple who said they are afraid that more people will test positive for the virus and be taken off the ship for transport to the hospital. The couple also reportedly said some American passengers are asking to be allowed to disembark.

The broadcaster separately reported on Saturday night on press remarks made by Health Minister Kato earlier in the day. He reportedly commented on an American couple who in an interview with Reuters said they were hoping for a "diplomatic solution" to allow them to leave the ship. Kato was quoted as saying: "We've heard that the U.S. has decided to allow Japan to take the lead under the present circumstances. We want the American citizens to remain on the ship along with the Japanese passengers."

American passengers aboard Diamond Princess seeking help

Several Japanese media outlets over the weekend carried interviews with American citizens who are quarantined on the Diamond Princess in Yokohama. An American couple interviewed by TV-Asahi said they are concerned because they do not know exactly when they will be allowed to get off the ship and wondered whether they would have to be quarantined again by the U.S. government after being released. They said that if that were the case, they would prefer to be quarantined in the U.S. now rather than in Japan. Another American couple from Texas cited by Asahi claimed that they had not been receiving enough food or water and that their greatest concern was the lack of information. "We want the Japanese government to continually provide us with accurate information," they said.

Diamond Princess operator supports GOJ's policy on quarantining cruise ship

NHK on Friday night aired an interview with Jan Swartz, the president of Princess Cruises, the operator of the Diamond Princess, who is reportedly visiting Japan to deal with the quarantine situation. While acknowledging that it is very difficult for many passengers to have to stay in their cabins for such an extended period, she expressed appreciation for their "patience." Swartz promised that the company would make additional efforts to alleviate passengers' hardships and concerns by, for example, providing them with information on the virus in multiple languages. Swartz reportedly stressed that Princess Cruises supports the GOJ's policy of keeping the passengers aboard the ship for two weeks to contain the outbreak.

Abe took initiative in denying entry of ship carrying possible coronavirus patients

Sunday's Asahi reported on the GOJ decision to prohibit the MS Westerdam from mooring in Japan over coronavirus fears, saying that Prime Minister Abe took the initiative in turning away the cruise ship carrying more than 2,000 passengers as the GOJ is busy dealing with the Diamond Princess situation. The daily claimed that the premier is determined to enforce thorough border control measures to prevent the spread of the new virus in Japan. While four additional cruise ships, including two operated by Japanese firms, are expected to visit Japan later this month, the daily said the GOJ is set to turn them away if it learns that there might be coronavirus patients on board.

Japan in dilemma over how to handle cruise ships

Yomiuri gave top play on Saturday to a report on the fact that many passengers aboard the Diamond Princess have tested positive for the new coronavirus. The paper wrote that the GOJ is worried that the outbreak on the cruise ship may give the international community the impression that Japan has become a "major cluster" of the epidemic. As Japan regards tourism as a major tool for boosting the domestic economy, an unnamed GOJ official reportedly voiced concern by saying: =1B$B!H!G=1B(BJapan passing' may pick up momentum." The daily explained that some Pacific island states have banned the entry of people who have stayed in Japan in the past two weeks and advised their citizens not to travel to Japan. The paper added that the WHO has accepted Japan's view that it does not have to include the 61 Diamond Princess passengers in the tally of patients infected with the virus in Japan.

Japanese citizen dies of pneumonia in Wuhan

All national dailies reported over the weekend that according to MOFA, a Japanese national has died of pneumonia in Wuhan, saying that the man in his 60s had been treated at a local hospital since mid-January. Although the papers said his pneumonia may have been triggered by the new coronavirus, the Wuhan health authorities have reportedly explained to the Japanese side that it cannot be determined with 100% certainty whether his illness was related to the new virus.

Meanwhile, all national dailies reported on Sunday that the bus driver in Nara Prefecture who had been hospitalized since mid-January after being infected with the new coronavirus has been discharged from the hospital. He is believed to be the first Japanese citizen infected with the virus.

In a related development, the Health Ministry reportedly announced on Sunday that a Japanese citizen in his 20s who was evacuated from Wuhan on the fourth GOJ-charted plane has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Atomic bombing exhibition to be held in Hawaii

Asahi reported on Friday evening that an atomic bombing exhibition will be held at the USS Missouri Memorial in Pearl Harbor this summer, saying that some 20 items portraying the real-life consequences of the bombing from the memorial museums in Hiroshima and Nagasaki will be displayed there from early July through September. The municipal governments of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are reportedly hoping that since the exhibition will take place on the warship where Japan officially surrendered in WWII, it will convey the importance of peace irrespective of differing views on the atomic bombing.


China calls on U.S. to ease travel restrictions over coronavirus

Saturday's Yomiuri highlighted a teleconference between President Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi on Friday at which the Chinese leader urged the President to reconsider the travel ban that the Trump administration has imposed in response to the outbreak of the new coronavirus in China by saying that Washington is "overreacting." Beijing is reportedly concerned that more nations will follow suit in limiting their citizens' travel to China. However, the U.S. leader reportedly did not respond to the request and simply said, "We fully support China's efforts" to contain the epidemic. The paper added that if China cannot contain the outbreak expeditiously, the Chinese economy may sustain serious damage, making it difficult for Beijing to import American farm products as pledged in the initial bilateral trade agreement.

Senior Chinese official's visit may be delayed

Sunday's Mainichi reported that a planned visit to Japan later this month by Chinese Communist Party Politburo member Yang may be postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak. The paper wrote that since Yang's trip was for the purpose of laying the groundwork for Xi's state visit in early April, the Chinese leader's trip may also be put off. According to the daily, it has also become uncertain whether Foreign Minister Wang will be able to go ahead with an envisaged trip to Japan in March for the same purpose. The daily said if China postpones the planned opening of the People's National Congress in early March, Xi's Japan trip may be canceled at the last minute.

Japan, UK hold strategic dialogue

The Sunday editions of all national papers reported on strategic dialogue held in Tokyo on Saturday between Foreign Minister Motegi and his British counterpart Raab, saying that they agreed to launch at an early date negotiations on a bilateral free trade agreement, which they said should be "as ambitious, high-standard, and mutually beneficial as the Japan-EU EPA." The two diplomats also reportedly agreed to convene a 2+2 foreign and defense ministerial meeting at an early date to discuss how to strengthen security cooperation.


Amphibious unit may be deployed in Hokkaido

Sunday's Sankei reported that the Defense Ministry is considering establishing an amphibious unit at a GSDF camp in Hokkaido as some of the facilities in the prefecture are thought to be well suited for training personnel for amphibious operations connected to the defense of remote islands. While explaining that some 600 SDF members will be assigned to the new unit by the end of FY2023, the daily said the ministry is ultimately hoping to set up a similar unit in Okinawa since a Japanese version of the U.S. Marine Corps was launched two years ago to counter China's maritime advancement in the East China Sea.


U.S. beef imports rose sharply last month

Asahi and Yomiuri wrote on Saturday that according to Finance Ministry statistics released on Friday, American beef imports in January soared 22% from a year ago to 3,881 tons. On the other hand, corresponding imports from Australia and other TPP nations plunged by 24% to 7,899 tons. The dailies attributed the surge in U.S. beef imports to a reduction in the Japanese tariff on U.S. beef from 38.5% to 26.6% as a result of the effectuation of the U.S.-Japan trade accord on Jan. 1.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team