Morning Alert - Tuesday, January 26, 2021
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Morning news

Broadcasters led with reports that 2,764 new COVID-19 cases were recorded nationwide yesterday, dipping below 3,000 for the first time since Dec. 28, while the number of seriously ill patients reached a record high at 1,017 (NHK, TV Asahi); a man in Tokyo has tested positive for the UK variant of COVID-19, bringing the total number of people infected with the new strain in Japan to 51 (NTV); the number of people dying of COVID-19 at home or in care facilities nationwide is surging this month (TBS); and Tokyo municipalities are concerned about their COVID-19 vaccination programs given the lack of clarity about vaccine supplies and shortage of medical practitioners and venues for vaccination (Fuji TV).

Top stories in national dailies included a GOJ plan to finish vaccinating the elderly against COVID-19 in three months (Yomiuri), Prime Minister Suga’s rejection of the withdrawal of the 1 trillion yen budget for “Go To Travel” campaign (Asahi), an advisory by the labor standards office to Nippon Medical School to address the practice of having graduate students work at its affiliated hospital without payment (Mainichi), a plan by Nomura Asset Management to evaluate companies based on their decarbonization efforts as an investment factor (Nikkei), and friction between the United States and China over Taiwan (Sankei).


Chinese leader Xi sends message of confidence to U.S. in address at World Economic Forum

All national dailies reported on an address by Chinese leader Xi Jinping at an online meeting of the World Economic Forum on Monday, during which he expressed confidence that China’s economic development will contribute to the world economy. Saying that Xi criticized moves in the international community to create small circles to reject others and the U.S. decoupling from China, Nikkei wrote that the Chinese leader sent a message to the Biden administration in response to its plans to employ diplomacy focusing on alliance relations. Xi also stated that China will strengthen international cooperation in developing, producing, and distributing COVID-19 vaccines. Noting that Beijing is trying to bring African and Southeast Asian nations over to its side by providing them with vaccines at a low price, the paper speculated that China is trying to preempt the United States by leading the international community in the fight against COVID-19 and global economy recovery. Asahi quoted Xi as saying: “To build small circles or start a new Cold War, to reject, threaten or intimidate others, to willfully impose decoupling, supply disruption or sanctions, and to create isolation or estrangement will only push the world into division and even confrontation.”

Japan calls for EU’s cooperation in Indo-Pacific

Nikkei, Yomiuri, Mainichi, and Sankei wrote that Foreign Minister Motegi attended an online meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council on Monday, saying this was the first time for Japan to be invited to the meeting. According to the papers, Motegi called for the EU’s cooperation in promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific by saying that moves are being made in the region to challenge security and democracy.

Germany to send naval frigate to Japan

Nikkei wrote that the German government is considering sending a naval frigate to Japan as early as this summer based on its new guidelines on the Indo-Pacific approved last fall. Noting that it is very rare for Germany to send a naval frigate to the region, the paper wrote that this is symbolic of a policy shift in Europe, which is becoming increasingly wary of China. According to sources in the German government and the ruling party, a frigate with a home port in northern Germany will stay in the Indo-Pacific region for quite a while, stopping in Japan, Australia, South Korea, and elsewhere, and is expected to receive supplies and participate in joint exercises in French territories in the region. Germany's Parliamentary State Secretary of Defense Silberhorn told Nikkei that the country is planning to send the ship to the region this summer and that although the details have not been decided yet, Berlin is considering Japan as a possible port of call. The German official reportedly added that Germany wants to deepen its ties with partners in the democratic camp. The paper wrote that although the official stressed the plan is not targeted at any particular country, it is clear the move is aimed at sending a message to China, which is trying to forcibly change the status quo. The daily wrote that the UK is also preparing to deploy the aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth to the Indo-Pacific region sometime between April and June.

Japan monitoring situation in Russia following arrest of pro-Navalny demonstrators

Mainichi wrote that during a press briefing on Monday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato commented the Japanese government is watching the situation in Russia with concern as arrests were reported in more than 100 cities in Russia of more than 3,000 demonstrators calling for the release of anti-government leader Alexei Navalny.


Prime Minister Suga says Japan aims to secure vaccines for everyone in Japan by June

Nikkei, Yomiuri, and Sankei wrote that Prime Minister Suga stated during a Lower House Budget Committee session on Monday that the government is aiming to secure enough vaccine doses for everyone in Japan by June.

Yomiuri and Sankei wrote that the GOJ announced at a briefing to local governments on Monday it is planning to administer COVID-19 vaccines to roughly 36 million people aged 65 or older within three months. Meanwhile, NHK reported this morning that the MHLW is planning to vaccinate employees at elderly care facilities that meet certain requirements at the same time as the elderly in order to prevent clusters and outbreaks.

GOJ considering extending state of emergency beyond Feb. 7

Yomiuri wrote that there is a growing view within the GOJ that it may be necessary to extend the state of emergency beyond Feb. 7 and continue to keep preventive measures in place for the time being because there has only been a slight drop in the number of new cases in the areas under the emergency declaration. The paper wrote that the government is considering extending the emergency for about a month.

Meanwhile, all national dailies wrote that 2,764 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Japan on Monday, dropping below 3,000 for the first time since Dec. 28, 2020. However, 1,017 people, up 10 from the previous day, were in serious condition. In Tokyo, 618 new cases were confirmed on Monday, with Tokyo's daily tally dropping below 700 for the first time since Dec. 28.

Kono says Japan to establish new system for managing coronavirus vaccination

Yomiuri, Mainichi, and Sankei wrote that Administrative Reform Minister Kono said on Monday that the government will develop a system to comprehensively manage personal information in order to promote the smooth administration of COVID-19 vaccines. The papers report the government is considering distributing vaccination tickets to all residents of Japan so they can use the tickets to get vaccinated against the virus at medical institutions. Under the envisaged system, municipal governments will register the numbers on the tickets and the numbers on residents’ “My Number” cards used for social security and taxation purposes, and medical institutions will check these numbers before residents undergo vaccination.

According to Sankei, Kono also said on Monday that Japan will hold a vaccination simulation in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, on Wednesday to assess how long it will take and how extensive the system needs to be to implement the vaccination program.


Sankei poll: 52% support Suga cabinet

Sankei front-paged the results of its joint opinion poll conducted with the Fuji News Network on Jan. 23-24, in which 52.3% of respondents supported the Suga cabinet while 45% did not. The paper speculated that the public’s expectations for vaccination against COVID-19 were reflected in the survey results because 77.2% said they have positive expectations for the vaccines and 69.2% said they will get vaccinated. The paper wrote that cabinet support was high among the young generation, as 62.7% of respondents in their 20s approved of the cabinet while 31.7% did not. The paper speculated that such policies targeting the young generation as advising smartphone carriers to reduce fees helped boost cabinet support among young people.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team