Afternoon Alert   -   Wednesday, May 13, 2020
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Noon news

NHK, NTV, and TBS gave top coverage to a report that the GOJ is making final arrangements to partially lift the state of emergency tomorrow. NHK said that in addition to the 34 prefectures that are not designated as areas that warrant special attention, the state of emergency may be lifted for Ibaraki, Aichi, Gifu, and Fukuoka. The network added that the GOJ is also carefully examining the possibility of lifting the state of emergency for Kyoto and Ishikawa, depending on the situation in Osaka. According to the network, the state of emergency is unlikely to be lifted for the Tokyo metropolitan area, Osaka, Hyogo, or Hokkaido tomorrow. The GOJ is expected to consider these areas again around May 21. Fuji TV and TV Asahi led with reports that in view of the COVID-19 outbreak and the ongoing Diet session, prosecutors are carefully examining the timing of bringing charges against former Justice Minister Kawai and his wife on suspicion of violating the Public Offices Election Act. 


GOJ to call on public to avoid “three Cs” even after lifting state of emergency

NHK and Fuji TV reported at noon that the GOJ is set to revise its basic response policy when it partially lifts the state of emergency tomorrow. According to NHK, the GOJ will state in its basic response policy that it will consider the infection situation, the medical care system, and the monitoring system when deciding whether to lift the state of emergency for the remaining prefectures. According to a source, the criteria will include whether the number of new cases was 0.5 or fewer per 100,000 people during the preceding week. The criteria for lifting the state of emergency in Tokyo will also reportedly include whether the number of new cases was 70 or fewer during the preceding week. The basic response policy will also reportedly call on people to adopt a "new lifestyle," including maintaining social distance, wearing masks, and washing their hands. In addition, the policy will also call on the public to avoid taking nonessential trips, visiting prefectures that are still under a state of emergency, and the "three Cs" - closed spaces with poor ventilation; crowded conditions with many people nearby; and close-contact situations such as close-range conversations. The network said the policy will also call for continued efforts to avoid people-to-people contact through teleworking or staggered commuting.

Poll finds Japanese people extremely distrustful of government over pandemic

Asahi reported on the results of a multinational opinion survey taken by an international business consultancy that revealed Japanese people’s deep distrust in their government over the coronavirus outbreak. Some 58% of Japanese respondents said that their confidence in the government had declined in the past two weeks while 6% felt otherwise. According to the pollster, the 52-point gap between the two figures represented the public’s distrust in government responses to the new pathogen. The corresponding figures for the U.S. and the UK were 12 points and 3 points, respectively. However, German and Swedish respondents reportedly displayed the opposite trend, with more people in the two European countries saying they trusted their governments more than before. The pollster reportedly attributed the Japanese people’s strong distrust in their government to Prime Minister Abe’s apparent failure to exercise leadership in presenting an exit strategy

Tokyo to study spread of coronavirus by testing sewage

TBS reported that the Tokyo government has begun a field survey today to study the current situation of infection with the new coronavirus by using sewage, as the virus can be detected in feces. The network said the survey is being conducted at 15 facilities in Tokyo, adding that Tokyo may be able to predict a second wave of infection by studying the amount of the virus in sewage. The network said while similar surveys are underway in France and other nations, a method of analysis has not yet been established, adding that Tokyo is planning to freeze the sewage samples and undertake the research in cooperation with the Japan Society on Water Environment.

•  Infographic: Trends in no. of coronavirus cases and positive test rate in Tokyo   (Tokyo Shimbun)

•  Infographic: 16,761 persons in Japan confirmed to be infected with COVID-19   (NHK digital)

•  No. of hospitalized COVID-19 patients on decrease, but medical system remains on alert   (NHK digital)

•  MEXT to evaluate PCR test capabilities of universities and research institutions   (Asahi)

•  Editorial: Pandemic offers chance for Japan, S. Korea to reset relations   (The Asahi Shimbun)

•  Editorial: Promote introduction of coronavirus therapy while considering side effects   (The Japan News)

•  Child abuse cases in Japan rise 10-20 pct in Jan.-March   (Jiji Press)

•  Domestic violence consultations increase in Japan amid pandemic   (Jiji Press)

•  MHLW to launch system to centrally manage information on coronavirus infections   (Nikkei)

•  Cartoon: So many candidates to choose from…   (Tokyo Shimbun)


Japan to request inquiry into WHO’s initial response to coronavirus outbreak

Yomiuri reported that during the upcoming WHO teleconference that will start next week, the Japanese government is likely to request an inquiry into the global heath organization's initial handling of the COVID-19 outbreak. Tokyo is reportedly expected to take up such issues as the WHO's timing in issuing alerts and advisories to member states and its emergency committee tasked with deciding on whether to declare a pandemic. Japan is also likely to call for other members to allow Taiwan to take part in the session as an observer on the grounds that having a “geographical vacuum” is not appropriate. It is also likely to underscore the importance of pursuing WHO reforms.

•  Japan, U.S., S. Korea defense chiefs plan to hold video conference   (Kyodo News)

•  Japan raises travel alert for 13 countries over virus pandemic   (The Japan Times , Kyodo News)

•  Foreign and Japanese ambassadors stranded by the new coronavirus   (Asahi)

•  Editorial: Take advantage of global pandemic to reorient China’s Belt and Road   (The Japan News)


Working-level defense officials of U.S., Japan, ROK agree to cooperate closely on COVID-19

NHK reported that working-level defense officials of the U.S., Japan, and South Korea agreed that close cooperation is important in measures to prevent the outbreak of the new coronavirus in addition to dealing with North Korea, and confirmed that they will move forward with arrangements to hold a teleconference for cabinet ministers at an early date. The network said the working-level defense talks were originally planned to be held in Tokyo, but were held online instead due to the COVID-19 outbreak. According to the network, the officials confirmed that the repeated firing of ballistic missiles by North Korea "violates UNSC resolutions and cannot be overlooked" and the three nations will work closely and conduct surveillance in order to prevent offshore ship-to-ship transfers by North Korea. In addition, the officials also reportedly exchanged views on China's maritime activities in the South and East China Seas, and the Japanese side reportedly explained its position that the repeated incursions by Chinese government patrol boats into Japan's territorial waters near the Senkaku Islands are unacceptable. 

•  Rise in how often Chinese boats sail near Japan’s Senkaku Islands   (The Japan News)


U.S. operator abandons bid to open casino in Japan due to coronavirus outbreak

Nikkei reported that Las Vegas Sands Corp. has decided to end its quest to obtain a casino license in Japan in order to concentrate its resources on operating existing facilities amid the global coronavirus pandemic. In announcing that the company is giving up on the billion-dollar Japan casino project, Chairman Seldon Adelson reportedly said it is time for the company to “focus our energy on other opportunities.”

•  Japan, U.S. affirm need for WTO reform   (Kyodo News)

•  Calls for ‘China exit’ mount as Japan reviews economic security   (Nikkei Asian Review)

•  Economic experts to join Japan govt coronavirus panel   (Jiji Press)

•  Japan March leading economic index posts steepest fall ever   (Jiji Press)

•  Toyota expects FY 2020 operating profit to dive 79.5% on coronavirus   (Kyodo News)

•  Aso says Finance Ministry and press are “crying wolf”   (Tokyo Shimbun)

•  Coronavirus pushes Japan closer to high-tech ‘super cities’   (Nikkei Asian Review)

•  Japanese low-cost carrier takes on govt clerical work to support citizens   (The Japan News)

•  Japan to set price of SMA drug Zolgensma at 167 m. yen   (Jiji Press)


•  Outnumbered but unafraid: Japanese climate activists confront society to save it   (The Japan Times)

•  JAXA succeeds in bidirectional laser communication between ISS and ground station   (Nikkei)

•  Hayabusa2 makes last engine thrust for return home   (NHK WORLD)


•  Prime minister’s schedule on May 12, 2020   (Sankei)

•  Roundup of newspaper editorials on extension of state of emergency   (Sankei)

•  Japan ruling camp executives discuss 2nd extra budget   (Jiji Press)

•  COVID-19 rent relief measure aimed at recovering Kishida’s lost political ground   (Asahi)

•  Editorial: Postwar constitution is 73 years old, and still hinders Japan’s response to emergencies   (Japan Forward)


•  80% approve of extension of emergency declaration, cabinet approval rises to 44%, Sankei-FNN poll   (Sankei)

•  Opinion poll & results from Sankei Shimbun   (Sankei)


Experts raise doubts about transparency of soil sampling at Futenma

Okinawa Times reported on soil samples that the U.S. military provided to the Okinawa authorities on Monday. The samples were reportedly collected by the U.S. military from multiple locations on MCAS Futenma, including the hangar where foam extinguisher containing hazardous PFOS spilled on April 10. The GOJ and the Okinawa prefectural government reportedly welcomed the fact that during their fourth onsite investigation, the U.S. side offered a sample of soil from an area that the U.S. military referred to as a “hotspot,” the area near the hangar from which soil was removed two weeks after the accident due to possible PFOS contamination.

Although the prefectural government finally obtained the soil sample that it had allegedly “desperately wanted,” the daily said some environmental activists are raising doubts as to whether the soil in question was actually taken from the earth removed from near the hangar by the U.S. military. An NGO representative reportedly insisted that Okinawa officials at the site should have refused to accept the sample and demanded that they be allowed to take samples themselves. “Investigations should be conducted based on science rather than trust of the U.S. military,” said the expert. “The onsite investigation was flawed because of the lack of transparency.”

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team