Morning Alert   -   Friday, May 15, 2020
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Morning news

All networks and national dailies gave top play to reports that the GOJ lifted the state of emergency over the coronavirus for 39 prefectures on Thursday, saying that the GOJ will consider around May 21 the possibility of lifting the state of emergency for the eight remaining prefectures.


Japan lifts state of emergency for 39 prefectures

All national dailies led with reports on the GOJ’s decision on Thursday to lift its state of emergency for 39 of Japan’s 47 prefectures, effective immediately. The 39 prefectures include the 34 prefectures not designated as areas that warrant special attention as well as Ibaraki, Ishikawa, Gifu, Aichi, and Fukuoka. Tokyo and its neighboring prefectures of Kanagawa, Chiba, and Saitama will remain under a state of emergency along with Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, and Hokkaido.

Prime Minister Abe held a news conference following the GOJ decision and said the status of the eight prefectures still under a state of emergency will be reviewed on May 21 and the government will decide whether to lift it before May 31 after hearing the opinions of experts. The 39 prefectures for which the state of emergency was lifted have decided to relax their requests for businesses to limit their operations. Osaka also plans to remove its business suspension requests in phases starting on Saturday even though it remains under a state of emergency. Such facilities as restaurants, department stores, shopping malls, movie theatres, and museums are expected to gradually open in places where the emergency has been lifted. However, the government is calling on businesses to take preventive measures against the coronavirus based on industry-specific guidelines. Abe said about 80 industries, including restaurants, hotels, supermarkets, railway services, and airlines, have set their own guidelines for preventing the spread of the virus.

Abe also said the government may declare a state of emergency again in the event of a second wave of infections. The premier called on people to continue to avoid traveling across prefectural borders and to continue efforts to minimize people-to-people contact through social distancing and other measures. Abe said Japan is embarking on an extremely difficult challenge to continue preventing the spread of infection while moving toward fully resuming economic and social activities.

Nikkei argued that increasing the number of PCR tests and strengthening the medical system, including increasing the number of hospitals beds for seriously ill patients, are the most pressing issues for Japan in preparing for the possibility of a second wave of infections. Mainichi speculated that the GOJ wanted to lift the state of emergency for as many prefectures as possible to mitigate concern over the pandemic’s impact on the economy. Asahi wrote that while economic activity will gradually resume in 39 prefectures, many economists assume that economic recovery will take time because many people will likely continue to voluntarily avoid nonessential outings and stores may not fully reopen for a while.

Japan to compile second extra budget for additional steps against coronavirus

All national dailies wrote that Prime Minister Abe said on Thursday that the government will compile a second extra budget for fiscal 2020 and that he instructed the government and ruling coalition officials to draw up a fresh spending plan to provide financial support to small business operators, furloughed workers, and struggling students who have been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. The GOJ is planning to decide on a second extra budget at a cabinet meeting on May 27 or later and submit it to the Diet for enactment before the current Diet session ends on June 17.

MHLW to begin large-scale antibody testing in Tokyo, Osaka, and Miyagi in June

NHK reported this morning that the MHLW has decided to begin large-scale antibody testing in Tokyo, Osaka, and Miyagi in June in order to ascertain the spread of the coronavirus in the nation. According to the network, the ministry will ask about 3,000 people in each of these prefectures to cooperate by undergoing the test in order to determine the spread of the virus in various regions and study the possibility of herd immunity. The network said this will be the first large-scale antibody test to be initiated by the government.


Japan expands entry ban to include Mexico and 12 other countries

All national dailies wrote that Prime Minister Abe said at a meeting of the GOJ coronavirus taskforce headquarter on Thursday that Japan will expand its entry ban to include 13 other countries: Mexico, Azerbaijan, the Bahamas, Cabo Verde, Colombia, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Honduras, Kazakhstan, the Maldives, Sao Tome and Principe, and Uruguay. Foreign travelers who have been to these countries within two weeks of their arrival in Japan will be turned away after the ban takes effect on Saturday. This brings the number of countries and regions from which entry to Japan is banned to 100.


Keidanren proposes flexible working styles

Yomiuri wrote that the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) compiled guidelines for restarting economic activity on Thursday in response to the government’s decision to lift the state of emergency for 39 of Japan’s 47 prefectures. The business lobby recommended the introduction of a four-day workweek and the promotion of teleworking as well as flexible business hours and shift work schedules as ways to ease congestion on public transportation. The federation also advised suspending nonessential business trips and conducting meetings and interviews or seminars with prospective employees online. The paper wrote that although the guidelines are nonbinding, Keidanren issued the recommendations in order to prepare for a prolonged fight against the coronavirus.

G20 nations discuss transparency in export restrictions

Sankei wrote that the trade ministers of the G20 nations held a videoconference on Thursday and discussed actions to ensure transparency in export restrictions and WTO reform to respond to the novel coronavirus pandemic in view of the increase in the number of nations that are limiting exports of medical equipment. The paper wrote that Japan’s Trade Minister Kajiyama proposed that the WTO and the G20 continue monitoring trade restrictions. Kajiyama also stressed the importance of using digital technology to reduce people-to-people contact to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and accelerating discussions on establishing rules for e-commerce.


All crew members on MSDF destroyer heading for Middle East test negative for COVID-19

Asahi wrote that Chief of the SDF Joint Staff Koji Yamazaki told the press on Thursday that all of the crew members on board the MSDF destroyer Kirisame, which left its homeport on May 10 to replace another MSDF destroyer engaged in Japan’s mission in the Middle East, have tested negative for COVID-19. The Kirisame will depart for the Middle East if none of its crew members fall ill during the two-week period starting on May 10.

The SDF chief also commented on China’s continued activities in the East China Sea, including the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning’s operations in the region and government ships’ intrusions into Japan’s territorial waters by saying that it is necessary for Japan to respond firmly to attempts to change the status quo.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team