Morning Alert   -   Friday, September 3, 2021
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Broadcasters led with reports on the number of seriously ill COVID-19 patients in Japan reaching a record high of 2,158, the finding that people under 20 accounted for about 22% of new cases confirmed between Aug. 25 and 31 (NHK), Chiba City’s request to the organizer of an outdoor music festival to postpone the event on account of the spread of COVID-19 (NTV), a record number of people being hospitalized for COVID-19 in Tokyo (TBS), the Mu variant of COVID-19 (Fuji TV), and dangerous jet skiers in Akasahi, Hyogo (TV Asahi).

Top stories in national dailies included Prime Minister Suga’s expression of his intention to run in the LDP leadership race (Asahi, Sankei), survey results showing that the governments of 34 prefectures have only provided limited information about COVID-19 patients recuperating at home on account of personal data protection (Yomiuri), a GOJ plan to allow restaurants to serve alcohol in areas under the COVID-19 state of emergency starting in October or November when vaccination is expected to be almost completed (Mainichi), and excessive funding requests made for at least 30 government projects since FY2015 (Nikkei).


Suga plans to change LDP leadership lineup on Sept. 6

All national dailies wrote that Prime Minister Suga conveyed to LDP Secretary General Nikai on Thursday his intention to run in the LDP presidential election slated for Sept. 29 and change the LDP leadership lineup on Sept. 6. Nikkei wrote that Suga is not planning to reshuffle the Cabinet but will appoint new members to posts that will be vacated by those who shift to party leadership positions. The paper quoted a senior GOJ official as saying the ministers in charge of COVID-19 measures probably won’t be replaced. Yomiuri and Sankei speculated that Suga is considering appointing Regulatory Reform Minister Kono, Environment Minister Koizumi, and former LDP Secretary General Ishiba to senior LDP positions.

Kishida announces platform for LDP leadership race, including COVID relief package

All national dailies wrote that former LDP Policy Research Council Chairman Kishida, who has expressed his intention to run in the upcoming LDP presidential election, announced on Thursday that a pillar of his policy platform for the election will be an economic package worth "tens of trillions of yen" to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. The package includes a plan to strengthen financial support for businesses affected by government policies such as requests for shortened businesses hours and people hit by the economic slump in the wake of the pandemic. Kishida also proposed plans to create a health crisis management agency and to reduce the number of people unable to receive medical care to zero by securing enough hospital beds for COVID-19 patients.


GOJ officials apologize to Ginowan mayor for U.S. military’s release of treated water

Asahi wrote that officials of the Defense Ministry and the Environment Ministry visited Ginowan Mayor Matsugawa on Thursday and offered an apology for causing anxiety among local citizens over the U.S. Marines’ recent release of water containing PFOS from the Futenma Air Station to the local sewage system. Noting that there are no regulations on the release of such water into a local sewage system in Japan, the officials reportedly told the mayor that although the U.S. military has emphasized the safety of the discharged water, the GOJ cannot say it was safe. According to the municipal government, it directly asked the ministries for a detailed explanation about the release because it was unable to ascertain the details from the explanations provided by their Okinawa offices. The paper wrote that it is very unusual for GOJ ministries to send officials to Okinawa in relation to damage from U.S. bases. Mayor Matsugawa reportedly told the press afterward that he was able to confirm from the meeting that the GOJ had no information about the timing of the release and that it cannot say the water was safe.


Japan, Pacific nations agree on strengthened maritime patrols to counter China

All national dailies wrote that Minister of Defensed Kishi held an online meeting with his counterparts from Pacific island nations on Thursday and confirmed the importance of securing freedom of navigation and flight with China’s maritime advancement in mind. The participants adopted a joint statement calling for strengthened maritime patrol activities, including response to illegal fishing.

LDP reviews evacuation mission in Afghanistan

Nikkei wrote that members of the LDP divisions of foreign affairs and national defense reviewed on Thursday Japan’s recent mission to send SDF aircraft to evacuate Japanese nationals and local staff from Afghanistan. The participants agreed to call on the GOJ to review the process of making the decision on SDF deployment and discuss how to respond to crisis situations in the future, including possible revisions to the SDF Law. Asahi, Mainichi, and Sankei wrote that the participants expressed dissatisfaction with the GOJ’s delayed decision to dispatch SDF aircraft to the mission.


Tokyo yet to meet goal of securing 7,000 beds for COVID patients

Nikkei wrote that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government said on Thursday that it has not yet achieved its goal of securing 7,000 beds for COVID-19 patients. The metropolitan government and the Health Ministry asked about 400 hospitals in Tokyo on Aug. 23 to secure more beds to treat COVID-19 patients based on the Infectious Disease Law, setting a deadline of Aug. 31. The paper wrote that although there are a total of about 80,000 hospital beds in Tokyo, only about 6,400 had been offered for coronavirus patients as of Sept. 1. Although the Tokyo government has set a goal of 7,000 beds, only 6,406 beds have been secured and only 6,117 beds are currently set up to treat COVID-19 patients. Among the some 20,000 COVID-19 patients recuperating at home, about 7,000 are awaiting hospitalization. In addition, 30% of the secured 6,400 beds are not being used. The paper wrote that hospitals are hesitant to comply with the request and that the metropolitan government has not been exercising leadership in urging hospitals to offer more beds. When asked by a reporter on Thursday how the metropolitan government plans to reach the goal of 7,000 beds, Governor Koike only said that Tokyo will continue to call for hospitals’ cooperation. All other papers ran similar reports.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team