Morning Alert   -   Wednesday, May 27, 2020
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Morning news

NHK gave top play to a report that although izakaya drinking establishments in Tokyo were allowed to operate until 10 p.m. following the lifting of the state of emergency on Monday, there were still not many people out and about in entertainment districts in Tokyo last night. TBS and TV Asahi gave top coverage to reports that many businesses in Tokyo reopened on Tuesday. NTV and Fuji TV led with reports that TV personality Yuya Tegoshi will suspend his show business activities after admitting to participating in drinking parties in April and May while the nation was under a state of emergency.

Top stories in national dailies included a GOJ plan to increase the number of elementary and junior high school teachers by 3,100 in regions at high risk of coronavirus infection so that students can receive instruction in smaller classes (Mainichi), survey results showing that 50 of the 98 major firms surveyed are using or considering using government subsidies to make employment adjustments in response to deteriorating business performance due to the coronavirus (Nikkei), a GOJ plan to call on its affiliated organizations to avoid the use of telecommunications devices made by Huawei and other Chinese companies (Yomiuri), the Trump administration’s plan to sell 18 MK-48 torpedoes to Taiwan to support its submarine construction (Sankei), and obstacles to tracking down perpetrators of online bullying (Asahi).


Japan to purchase 1,000 U.S. ventilators

Mainichi wrote that it learned from multiple GOJ sources on Tuesday that the government is making arrangements to purchase about 1,000 ventilators from the United States in preparation for the possibility of a “second wave” of coronavirus infections. According to the sources, the U.S. side told Japan that General Motors had begun mass producing ventilators and could sell them to Japan if necessary. The paper alleged that Prime Minister Abe decided to purchase the medical devices during a teleconference with President Trump on May 8. Asahi published a similar story yesterday.

Avigan unlikely to be approved for COVID-19 treatment this month

Mainichi wrote that Health Minister Kato said during a press briefing on Tuesday that a plan to approve the use of the anti-flu drug Avigan for coronavirus treatment by the end of this month will be postponed. The paper wrote that although Prime Minister Abe said during a news conference on May 4 that the GOJ was hoping the drug would be approved by the end of this month, Kato said a third-party panel in charge of assessing clinical studies believes it is too early to scientifically evaluate the drug’s effectiveness. Kato added, however, that clinical studies and trials will continue next month and there is no change in his ministry’s plan to swiftly approve the drug as soon as its effectiveness is confirmed. The paper wrote that some experts have expressed concern that the government is rushing to approve Avigan for COVID-19 treatment and undermining the strict medical procedures in place to authorize the use of drugs. Fujita Health University released the results of its clinical trials of Avigan for 2,158 COVID-19 patients, saying no unexpected side effects have been confirmed. Sankei ran a similar report.

WHO head says Japan’s response to coronavirus has been successful

Sankei wrote that WHO Director-General Tedros commented on Japan’s lifting of its nationwide state of emergency during a news conference on Monday, saying that Japan has successfully kept the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths to a minimum. Tedros added that Japan will continue implementing such measures as identifying infection routes and isolating patients even after the state of emergency has been lifted. Nikkei added that another WHO official told reporters on Monday that many countries around the world are still in the middle of the first wave of infections as the number of new cases is increasing in Latin America and other regions, and warned that a second wave could occur in developed nations where the virus has been brought under control.

Foreign media begin to recognize Japan’s efforts to bring coronavirus under control

Yomiuri wrote that U.S. and European media’s evaluation of Japan’s response to the coronavirus has been shifting. The paper wrote that although Western media outlets had initially been critical of Japan’s approach to the virus outbreak, including its low PCR testing rates and lax enforcement of the state of emergency, some of them have begun to recognize the GOJ’s efforts to call on residents to avoid the “Three Cs” -- closed spaces, crowds, and close-contact settings -- and the lifestyle and health insurance system in Japan as positive factors in bringing the virus under control.


G7 leaders positive about attending summit in Washington

Yomiuri wrote that the leaders of France, the UK, and Germany responded positively to President Trump’s idea of holding a G7 summit in Washington in late June, saying that if the summit is held as planned, it will be the first time for the G7 leaders to meet in person since the coronavirus outbreak began. The paper speculated that the Trump administration is making arrangements to hold the summit at the White House and Camp David. The paper further speculated that Prime Minister Abe is hoping to exercise leadership in discussing the response to infectious diseases at the planned G7 summit, saying that Abe expressed at a news conference on Monday his intention to propose to the other G7 leaders the creation of a “patent pool” to increase developing nations’ access to coronavirus treatments.

China rebuts Abe’s comment on origin of COVID-19

Nikkei and Sankei wrote that during a news conference on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian reacted strongly to Prime Minister Abe's remark on Monday that it is a fact that the new coronavirus spread from China to the world. The Chinese spokesperson reportedly said that China resolutely opposes the politicization and stigmatization of the origin of the virus and that the issue should be studied by scientists and medical experts.

Japanese, EU leaders agree to cooperate in dealing with coronavirus

Yomiuri, Nikkei, Mainichi, and Sankei wrote that Prime Minister Abe held a videoconference with European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday. According to the papers, the three leaders agreed on the importance of international cooperation in developing treatments and vaccines for COVID-19 and swiftly sharing information in a transparent manner. The Japanese and EU leaders issued a joint press statement on the WHO, saying that it is necessary to launch a fair, independent, and comprehensive probe into how the organization responded to the coronavirus outbreak. Mainichi wrote that the three leaders confirmed the importance of the role played by the WHO, apparently with the rift between the United States and China over the WHO in mind.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team