Morning Alert   -   Tuesday, August 24, 2021
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Broadcasters led with reports on growing concern over the spread of COVID-19 among children as summer break ended in many parts of Japan (NHK), more than 20,000 people having to recuperate at home after contracting the novel coronavirus in Tokyo (NTV, Fuji TV), the GOJ and the Tokyo government’s request that all medical institutions in Tokyo accept COVID-19 patients based on the revised Infectious Disease Law (TBS), and the number of seriously ill COVID-19 patients reaching a record high for the 11th consecutive day (TV Asahi).

Top stories in national dailies included the request for all hospitals in Tokyo to secure beds for COVID-19 patients (Asahi, Mainichi), a GOJ plan to require university medical schools to set up quotas for training infectious diseases experts (Yomiuri), a plan by Seven & i Holdings to enter the delivery business via its 20,000 convenience stores in Japan (Nikkei), and strategic cooperation between China and Russia on Afghanistan (Sankei).


MOFA welcomes nomination of Rahm Emanuel as ambassador to Japan

Yomiuri wrote that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs released on Monday a spokesperson’s statement on the nomination of former Chief of Staff for President Obama Rahm Emanuel as ambassador to Japan. The statement said that the Government of Japan welcomes the nomination of Mr. Rahm Emanuel as the next U.S. Ambassador to Japan and that it understands that he has the deep confidence of President Biden. The statement added that the government of Japan highly appreciates his nomination as it reflects the great importance the Biden Administration attaches to the Japan-U.S. alliance.

SDF plane departs on evacuation mission

All national dailies wrote that an ASDF C-2 transport plane left for a nation near Afghanistan Monday evening, and two C-130 transport planes are expected to depart today on a mission to evacuate Japanese nationals working at international organizations and the local staffs of the Japanese Embassy and the JICA office in Afghanistan. The GOJ made the decision to dispatch SDF aircraft based on the SDF Law at a meeting of the National Security Council on Monday morning. The C-2 will transport SDF troops from Japan to a country near Afghanistan and the C-130 planes will airlift the Japanese nationals and local staffs from the international airport in Kabul to the nearby country.

Yomiuri speculated that although the GOJ was originally hesitant to dispatch SDF aircraft to Afghanistan and asked a third country to evacuate the 12 diplomats at the Japanese Embassy in Kabul, it later decided on the dispatch out of concern that Japan could face international criticism if it continues to depend on other nations for evacuating Japanese nationals and local hires from Afghanistan.

Asahi and Sankei wrote that although the GOJ decided on the dispatch of SDF aircraft, the evacuation mission involves uncertainties and challenges, such as whether people who wish to evacuate will be able to safely reach the airport and how to screen family members of several dozen local staff members that may total in the hundreds.

U.S., ROK officials discuss DPRK

Nikkei, Yomiuri, and Mainichi wrote from Seoul that U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Sung Kim and his South Korean counterpart Noh Kyu-duk held an in-person meeting in Seoul on Monday. The papers wrote that the two officials discussed possible humanitarian assistance to North Korea and the need for dialogue with Pyongyang. The papers quoted the U.S. envoy as telling reporters afterward that the United States supports inter-Korea humanitarian projects.


GOJ, Tokyo ask hospitals to secure beds for COVID patients

All national dailies wrote that on Monday Health Minister Tamura and Tokyo Governor Koike asked all medical institutions in Tokyo, which total 14,000, to accept as many COVID-19 patients as possible and dispatch staff to operate oxygen stations and other facilities for treating COVID-19 patients to relieve the current strain on the healthcare system in Tokyo. This is the first time for the Health Ministry to make such a request of medical institutions based on the revised Infectious Disease Law. The metropolitan government aims to secure about 600 hospital beds to bring the total number of beds available for COVID-19 patients to 7,000. About 400 hospitals accept coronavirus patients. The GOJ requested support from the 250 hospitals that currently do not accept these patients and from the 13,500 clinics, universities with medical departments, and nursing schools across the nation. The papers wrote that the effectiveness of the latest step remains uncertain. The GOJ and the Tokyo government can disclose the names of hospitals that do not comply with the request without a justifiable reason, but it remains unclear whether they will do so as many hospitals are reporting staff shortages.

GOJ considering whether to further expand COVID-19 state of emergency

Nikkei, Asahi, and Sankei wrote that Prime Minister Suga and the other relevant cabinet ministers discussed on Monday whether there is a need to expand the COVID-19 state of emergency to Hokkaido, Aichi, Gifu, and Mie prefectures as they have requested. The GOJ is planning to consult with experts about the matter as early as Wednesday.

40% of people in Japan receive two shots of COVID-19 vaccine

Nikkei and Asahi wrote that the GOJ announced in the Kantei’s official website on Monday that 40.7% of people in Japan had received two shots of a COVID-19 vaccine by Aug. 22. Prime Minister Suga has set a goal of vaccinating more than 40% of people in Japan by late August.


Cabinet support continues to drop

Sankei reported on the results of its nationwide public opinion survey jointly conducted with Fuji News Network on Saturday and Sunday. The poll showed that 32.1%, down 6.9 points from a month ago, supported the Suga cabinet, while 61.8%, up 5.8 points, did not. The 32.1% figure was the lowest since January, and nonsupport surpassed 50% for the fourth consecutive month. Some 70.4% disapproved of the administration’s measures against the coronavirus pandemic, while 22.7% approved.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team