Morning Alert - Tuesday, September 29, 2020
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Morning news

NHK gave top play to a report that NTT has decided to turn its mobile carrier NTT Docomo into a wholly owned company through a takeover bid. NTV and TV Asahi led with reports that the city of Nasu-Shiobara in Tochigi has decided to raise its hot spring bathing tax to secure funds for COVID-19 testing for all its tourism industry employees. TBS gave top play to a report that the GOJ’s “Go To Eat” campaign to support restaurants will begin in all prefectures from next month. Fuji TV led with security footage showing a man stealing money from a money-changing machine at a laundromat in Ibaraki.

Top stories in national dailies included NTT’s plan to turn NTT Docomo into a wholly owned subsidiary via a tender offer expected to be worth around $38 billion (Nikkei), China’s control of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (Sankei), a GOJ plan to provide tax breaks for satellite offices to promote teleworking amid the coronavirus outbreak (Yomiuri), recommendations by the Central Education Council to set new standards for establishing schools for students with special needs (Mainichi), and an increase in the minimum wage and reduction in NHK fees starting in October (Asahi).


Japan to ease travel advisory in stages

Nikkei wrote that Japan is planning to begin gradually easing in October its overseas travel alerts currently in place for 159 countries and regions, starting with 10 countries and regions that have low numbers of new COVID-19 cases. Japan has issued travel advisories for infectious diseases in four categories. The warnings are not legally binding, however, and receiving countries have the power to accept or reject the entry of travelers from Japan. As of Monday, Japan had placed 159 countries and regions, including the United States and China, at level 3, which urges Japanese nationals to avoid traveling there. Beginning next month, Japan will lower its warning level to 2 for countries with low numbers of cases in the last two weeks, such as Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, and Brunei. Level 2 advises Japanese nationals to avoid nonessential travel. People who travel to these countries will still be required to quarantine for two weeks upon their return to Japan.

GOJ’s online information-sharing system for coronavirus infection not used widely

All national dailies wrote that the Health Ministry reported to its COVID-19 working group of experts on Monday the results of a survey conducted from Aug. 24–Sept. 2 of local governments and medical institutions about their use of the ministry’s Health Center Real-Time Information-Sharing System on COVID-19 (HER-SYS). The ministry has found that although the online system was made available in late May to a total of 155 local governments and 4,700 hospitals nationwide to help public health centers, municipal governments, and medical institutions share information on COVID-19 cases promptly, only 40% of the surveyed institutions said that they are using the system. The papers wrote that the ministry is planning to review the system because some of the respondents expressed dissatisfaction by saying that the system is cumbersome.

China administers unproven coronavirus vaccines to 350,000 people

Nikkei reported from Beijing that it has learned from local media reports that China has injected at least 350,000 people with coronavirus vaccines that are still undergoing clinical trials. The paper wrote that although the vaccines are being provided on an emergency basis to those who need to travel abroad, including businessmen and students, and the recipients have so far reported no significant side effects, there are concerns about the safety of such vaccines.

The paper claimed that there are several cases of state-owned enterprises shouldering the costs of vaccinations for employees stationed in countries involved in China's Belt and Road Initiative, and many diplomats and health care workers have received the vaccines as well. However, the nations hosting people who have received vaccines that are still under development do not provide special treatment, such as exemptions from the self-quarantine requirement. An executive of the state-run company Sinopharm told the Chinese media in mid-September that 350,000 people have received the emergency vaccination.


Chinese foreign minister to visit Japan in mid-October

Yomiuri wrote that it learned from a senior MOFA official on Monday that the governments of Japan and China are making arrangements for Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to visit Tokyo in mid-October for talks with Prime Minister Suga and Foreign Minister Motegi. The paper speculated that the two governments will discuss such issues as the possible resumption of business travel between their nations and Chinese government vessels’ activities near the Senkaku Islands.

Japan Coast Guard vessel, Taiwanese fishing boat involved in collision off Senkakus

Sankei ran a Kyodo report saying that that the Japan Coast Guard announced on Monday that one of its patrol ships and a Taiwanese fishing boat were involved in a minor collision at around 3:00 p.m. on Sunday in waters near the Senkaku Islands. The incident occurred when the patrol boat was warning the fishing boat to leave the area while sailing alongside it. No injuries were reported. Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato told reporters on Monday that the GOJ has contacted the Taiwanese side and will handle the matter appropriately while conducting an investigation.


Tokyo Olympic torch relay to start on March 25 in Fukushima

All national dailies wrote that the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games announced on Monday the Tokyo Olympic torch relay will start on March 25 in Fukushima Prefecture. According to the organizer, the relay will start from the J-Village soccer training center in Fukushima and last for 121 days while traversing all of Japan's 47 prefectures until July 23 when the Olympics are slated to open. The previous schedule for each region has been maintained aside from a one-day adjustment to fit next year's calendar. The Paralympic torch relay will be held from Aug. 17–24 in Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba, and Shizuoka.

Meanwhile, Sankei quoted Yoshiro Mori, the president of the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, as telling a gathering of LDP politicians on Monday that the Tokyo Games should be held next year “no matter what happens.”

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team