Afternoon Alert   -   Friday, May 22, 2020
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Noon news

Fuji TV led with a report that the GOJ is considering lifting the state of emergency for all remaining prefectures on May 25. The network said that although the number of new cases per 100,000 in the preceding week in Kanagawa would be above the government target even if there were zero new cases over the next three days, a GOJ source said that since the number of new cases is on the decline and the routes of infection are clear in most cases in both Kanagawa and Hokkaido, there is a good chance that the state of emergency will be lifted. The network added that a senior GOJ official said that the reason for moving up the date to May 25 is because the public is "reaching its limit both economically and in terms of staying home." The GOJ is expected to make a final decision soon while carefully assessing the number of new cases this weekend. NHK gave top play to a report that the Tokyo government will release a roadmap this afternoon for the easing of its coronavirus-related restrictions, including its request for business operators to close during the state of emergency.

NTV, TBS, and TV Asahi led with reports that the cabinet approved this morning the resignation of Hiromu Kurokawa as chief of the Tokyo High Public Prosecutors Office after he admitted to gambling with journalists when the nation was under a state of emergency.


Tokyo releases roadmap for overcoming COVID-19

NHK reported that Tokyo Governor Koike announced this afternoon that Tokyo has drawn up a roadmap for overcoming the coronavirus outbreak, saying: "The number of new cases is decreasing, but we want to return to a peaceful life as soon as possible. We will achieve both the prevention of coronavirus infection and economic and social activities. I think everybody is hoping to establish a 'new normal.'" Koike reportedly explained that there are five pillars to the roadmap:  1) Curb infections as much as possible by staying home while the state of emergency is in place, 2) Restore people's daily lives and resume social and economic activities through appropriate monitoring, 3) Issue a "Tokyo alert" when there are signs of an outbreak and reissue the stay-at-home request if figures exceed a certain level, 4) Take all necessary measures to be able to respond to the anticipated "second wave," and 5) Establish a "new normal" in which people are expected to continue to take preventive measures in the prolonged battle against the virus.

In addition, Koike reportedly explained that Tokyo has established seven monitoring indicators to determine whether to relax or reissue restrictive measures. According to Koike, as of today, the average number of new cases in Tokyo over the past week was 8.4, the percentage of positive cases where the routes of infection are unknown is 47.5%, the number of seriously ill patients is 42, the number of people hospitalized is 679, and the positive rate of PCR testing is 1.7%. Koike reportedly said that the current figures are below the government criteria for lifting the state of emergency. In addition, Tokyo has reportedly decided on four steps for easing its requests for businesses to close temporarily and will basically ease the restrictions every two weeks from the current Step 0. She reportedly added that professional baseball games and other professional sporting events will be allowed to be held without spectators and restaurants and drinking establishments will be allowed to stay open until 10 p.m. under Step 1. Restrictions will be lifted for cram schools, movie theaters, and other commercial facilities under Step 2. Restrictions will be lifted for entertainment facilities such as game centers and theme parks under Step 3.

IOC to decide in October whether to hold Tokyo Olympics next summer

Asahi and Yomiuri reported from Sydney on remarks made to a local press outlet by John Coates, the head of the IOC's Coordination Commission for the Tokyo Olympics. He reportedly indicated that the IOC will probably decide around October whether or not to hold the Games in Tokyo in the summer of 2021. He reportedly ruled out the possibility of postponing the international sporting event again to 2022, saying it will only be held in 2021. The official reportedly indicated that even if a vaccine for COVID-19 is developed, the Tokyo Olympics may not be held if there aren't enough supplies of the vaccine available worldwide.

Tokyo to light up Rainbow Bridge in red if COVID-19 cases reach alert level

NHK reported this morning that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) is planning to light up the Rainbow Bridge in red in the event that the COVID-19 situation in the prefecture worsens again. The network said Tokyo is planning to gradually relax its request for business operators to temporarily close after the state of emergency is lifted, but will reissue the request if the infection situation worsens. According to the network, in order to inform people of the COVID-19 infection situation after the state of emergency is lifted, the TMG will light up the Rainbow Bridge in seven different colors representing the scale it has established. If the situation deteriorates, the TMG will light up the bridge in red to inform residents that a "Tokyo alert" has been issued.

•  Kawasaki disease and the coronavirus: six things to know   (Nikkei Asian Review)

•  Japan to start virus antibody tests on 10,000 people in June   (Kyodo News)

•  Why has Japan’s coronavirus death remained low?   (Japan Forward)

•  Agency for Medical Research and Development to fund vaccine development   (Nikkei)

•  How far are we from an effective vaccine? Interview with Osaka Univ. experts   (Asahi)

•  Japan’s AGC joins project to develop coronavirus DNA vaccine   (Nikkei Asian Review)

•  Editorial: Prefectures must stay vigilant while easing out of the state of emergency   (The Japan News)

•  Data collection methods led to significant miscalculation of coronavirus cases in Tokyo   (The Japan News)

•  GOJ expands cash handout program to include foreign technical interns unable to return home   (Asahi)

•  Only top 30% of foreign students to be eligible for gov’t handouts   (Kyodo News)

•  Loss, stigma, guilt: Life after recovering from COVID-19 in Japan   (The Japan Times)

•  Cartoon: Say it ain’t so   (Asahi)

•  Infographic: 17,230 persons in Japan confirmed to be infected with COVID-19   (NHK digital)


U.S. to withdraw from Open Skies treaty

TBS reported that President Trump disclosed to the press on Thursday that the U.S. will withdraw from the 34-nation Open Skies Agreement, which allows nations to fly their aircraft over each other's territory and monitor military facilities. The network quoted the President as saying: "I think we have a very good relationship with Russia. But Russia didn’t adhere to the treaty, so until they adhere, we will pull out." Noting that the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty between the U.S. and Russia expired last year, the network said international nuclear disarmament may suffer another setback as a result of the withdrawal.

NHK carried a similar report, saying that Secretary of State Pompeo released on Thursday a statement saying that the U.S. has decided to withdraw from the Open Skies Agreement. The network said while the U.S. will formally withdraw from the agreement in six months, it is expected to review its decision if Russia completely adheres to the treaty. The network said that in addition to abandoning the INF treaty last year, the Trump administration is demanding China's participation in the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which will expire next year, adding there is no prospect for the New START to be extended either. The network added that a U.S. nuclear disarmament expert expressed concern that the U.S. withdrawal from the Open Skies Agreement may lead to an arms race.

•  Editorial: Comfort women advocacy group should stop holding anti-Japan rallies and remove statue   (Sankei)

•  ROK manufacturers accelerating moves to break away from dependence on Japan   (Nikkei)

•  Japanese hospital opens in Turkey   (NHK WORLD)


•  Coronavirus costs nearly 10,000 jobs in Japan since Feb.: gov’t   (Kyodo News)

•  Commentary: Save jobs and businesses endangered by the pandemic   (The Japan Times)

•  Over 3 mil. jobs could be lost in Japan due to coronavirus   (Kyodo News)

•  Export of coal-fired power plants can continue: economic ministry panel   (Asahi)

•  Japan’s exports tumble 21.9 pct in April   (Jiji Press)

•  ANA to require all passengers to wear masks   (Jiji Press)

•  Fujifilm pictures new pharma-heavy identity with Avigan   (Nikkei Asian Review)


•  Crash avoidance system installed in ASDF F-35 fighters   (Jiji Press)

•  LDP commission proposes setting qualifications for personnel granted access to classified information   (Nikkei)

•  Japan should manage advanced technology together with U.S., U.K.: expert   (Yomiuri)

•  NSC economic division should protect and develop Japanese technology: ex-gov’t official   (Yomiuri)

•  China’s relentless provocations over Senkakus concern Japan   (Jiji Press)


•  Prime minister’s schedule on May 21, 2020   (Sankei)

•  Gist of interpellations at Lower, Upper House Committees on Rules and Administration, May 21, 2020   (Sankei)

•  Editorial: Prosecutors should regain trust after senior official’s gambling scandal   (The Japan News)


•  Do genes partly determine the severity of illness from novel coronavirus infection?   (Asahi)

•  ISS ‘space studio’ to combine Earthlings’ video clips with orbital views, post them online   (The Mainichi)

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team