Afternoon Alert   -   Friday, May 15, 2020
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Noon news

NHK and NTV gave top play to reports that businesses are gradually reopening in the 39 prefectures where the state of emergency was lifted on Thursday. TBS, Fuji TV, and TV Asahi led with reports that the Tokyo government is expected to disclose this afternoon a set of conditions for relaxing its request for businesses to suspend operations under the state of emergency, saying that the conditions include whether the number of new cases is 20 or less per day. 


Tokyo reveals outline of roadmap for ending business shutdown

Yomiuri and Asahi wrote that during a regular press conference on Friday afternoon, Tokyo Governor Koike released the outline of a roadmap for easing her government's request for business closures associated with the coronavirus outbreak. According to the governor, the ongoing restrictions on business operations may be lifted gradually when the following conditions are met: 1) the average number of new cases per day is 20 or fewer in the preceding week; 2) the percentage of patients whose infection routes cannot be traced is below 50%; and 3) the overall number of positive tests is declining from week to week. In addition, the TMG will also take into account the number of patients in serious condition, the number of patients being treated at hospitals, and positive rates of PCR diagnostic testing when deciding whether to ease restrictions. She noted that the TMG will continue monitoring these data and that if one of these conditions is not met, she will issue a "Tokyo alert," warning citizens to practice social distancing and take other precautionary measures more stringently. If the number of new weekly patients exceeds 50, she would issue a request for a business shutdown again.   

Asahi noted that the roadmap will take effect on June 1, explaining that even if the GOJ elects to end the state of emergency for Tokyo and its three neighboring prefectures on May 21, the governor is set to maintain restrictions on local business operations at least through the end of May in preparation for a possible "second wave" of infections. 

MHLW announces results of antibody testing

TV Asahi reported that Health Minister Kato disclosed today the results of antibody testing conducted by the MHLW's research team last month. The testing found that 0.6% of people in Tokyo and 0.4% of people in the six prefectures of the Tohoku region tested positive. According to the network, the research team asked the Japan Red Cross Society to administer the antibody test to a total of 1,000 people in Tokyo and Tohoku. While the purpose of the test was to check the performance of several test kits and confirm the spread of the virus, the network said the team found that 3 in 500 people in Tokyo and 2 in 500 people in Tohoku tested positive. The network also said, however, that 2 of the 500 blood samples taken in January to March last year also tested positive for the antibody. Minister Kato reportedly said: "It is natural to think that there is a certain percentage of false positives. We were advised by experts that it is not appropriate to indicate a percentage of people with antibodies after administering the test to such a small number of people." The network said the MHLW is planning to administer a large-scale antibody test to about 10,000 people starting next month.

Seven Japanese nationals living overseas die of COVID-19

NHK reported that a MOFA consular affairs officer disclosed at a Lower House foreign affairs committee session this morning that of the 93 Japanese nationals living overseas who tested positive for the new coronavirus, seven have died from COVID-19. The network said MOFA has not disclosed the countries or regions of their residence because such information could help identify the individuals.

•  Infographic: Assessment of prefectures under special alert for COVID-19   (Nikkei)

•  Editorial: Don’t let guard down, resume activity gradually as emergency partially lifted   (The Japan News)

•  Editorial: Virus strategy needed even after lifting of state of emergency   (The Asahi Shimbun)

•  Cartoon: Spousal restraint   (Asahi)

•  Newspapers are most reliable source of COVID-19 information, survey   (Tokyo Shimbun)

•  Japan to give struggling students up to 200,000 yen   (Jiji Press)

•  Foreign visitors down 99% in April due to virus-linked entry bans   (Kyodo News)

•  Infographic: 16,915 persons in Japan confirmed to be infected with COVID-19   (NHK digital)

•  Zama Ayase medical association to start PCR test from May 18   (Kanagawa Shimbun)

•  Ads disappear in Tokyo amid COVID-19 epidemic   (Jiji Press)


MOD to review restrictions on SDF activities

NHK reported that following the partial lifting of the state of emergency, Defense Minister Kono told the press on Thursday that measures to restrict SDF exercises and nonessential outings by SDF members will gradually be lifted, while any SDF events where ordinary citizens can participate will continue to be suspended or postponed in principle. Kono reportedly said: "We hope to resume exercises in prefectures where the state of emergency has been lifted. We also hope to slowly lift the ban on nonessential outings at SDF camps and bases."

Five crew members of U.S. carrier test positive for COVID-19 again

NHK reported that the U.S. Navy told the network on Thursday that five crew members of USS Theodore Roosevelt who had recovered from COVID-19 and returned to duty on the nuclear carrier have tested positive for the virus again and are being quarantined. According to the network, the five sailors returned to duty as they tested negative twice after being quarantined in Guam. However, they reportedly developed flu-like symptoms this week and tested positive for the virus again. In addition to the five sailors, several people who had close contact with them disembarked from the ship are reportedly in quarantine. The network said although the U.S. Navy is hoping to swiftly resume the operation of the U.S. carrier by returning the sailors to duty, the latest incident demonstrates the challenge of resuming normal operations. 

•  Over last two years, 160 local assemblies have requested SOFA revision   (Asahi)


•  Taiwan’s participation in WHO meeting is vital for global worldwide disease prevention   (Nikkei)

•  Japan–South Korea relations will hit second low point   (Nikkei)

•  Editorial: Japan should join countries demanding probe into China’s Wuhan lab   (Japan Forward)


•  Tough road ahead for Japan’s nuclear fuel cycle   (The Japan News)

•  Japan’s casino plans remain dicey after Las Vegas Sands pullout – US operator’s reticence shows licence rules are a gamble for investors, analysts say –   (Nikkei Asian Review)

•  Two civic groups ask Yokohama gov’t to suspend IR project   (Kanagawa Shimbun)

•  Yokohama, other IR operators maintain commitment in IR project despite Sands’ withdrawal   (Kanagawa Shimbun)

•  Coronavirus might cost Japan over 1 million jobs, economists say   (The Japan Times)

•  BOJ Kuroda vows to do whatever to contain virus impacts   (Jiji Press)

•  Takeda expects operating profit to rise 3.5-fold in FY 2020   (Jiji Press)

•  Editorial: Japan should end its nonsensical effort to recycle nuclear fuel   (The Asahi Shimbun)


•  Prime minister’s schedule on May 14, 2020   (Sankei)

•  Editorial: Use second supplementary budget to reinforce economic safety net   (The Japan News)

•  Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura: From man of the hour to future prime minister?   (The Japan Times)

•  No Lower House passage of unpopular prosecutor bill this week   (Jiji Press)

•  Ex-prosecutors oppose bill for extending retirement age   (Kyodo News)

•  Editorial: Japan gov’t must not ignore outcry over bill to extend prosecutors’ retirement   (The Mainichi)

•  Weekly Editorial: Prosecutor retirement revision a dangerous step   (The Japan Times)


•  China accelerates efforts to become “space superpower”   (Yomiuri)

•  Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, NASA to observe mice aboard ISS   (The Japan News)


•  September school start would need some 30 legal changes in Japan   (Nikkei Asian Review)


Okinawa decides not to invite premier to war memorial event amid pandemic

Ryukyu Shimpo and Okinawa Times wrote that the Okinawa prefectural government has decided against inviting Prime Minister Abe to the annual event on June 23 commemorating the end of the Battle of Okinawa in WWII since this year’s ceremony will be drastically scaled back because of the coronavirus outbreak. The prefectural government is also reportedly conducting a review of its existing plan to invite a top UN representative to the 75th anniversary event. It will also ask the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to send video messages instead of attending.

•  Two robbers filmed by security cameras   (Okinawa Times)

•  Okinawa-elected LDP Diet members given green light to return home for prefectural assembly campaign   (Okinawa Times)

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team