Afternoon Alert   -   Friday, May 29, 2020
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Noon news

All TV networks except NTV gave top play to Tokyo Governor Koike's plan to further ease restrictions on business operations starting on Monday, saying that fitness clubs, department stores, cram schools, movie theaters, and other outlets will all be allowed to reopen. NTV led with a report saying that Kitakyushu City is struggling to prevent a "second wave" of coronavirus infections.


Kitakyushu swept by “second wave” of COVID-19

All broadcasters took up remarks made this morning by Mayor Kitahashi of Kitakyushu, who said the city is “currently in the middle of a second wave” of coronavirus infection. According to the networks, the routes of infection for almost half of the 43 newly confirmed cases in the past six days are unknown. Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga told the press earlier today that the current situation does not warrant an immediate issuance of a state of emergency. “Only 40 people are currently hospitalized in Fukuoka Prefecture,” the government spokesman said: “The prefectural government has secured 490 beds [for COVID-19 patients], including 93 in Kitakyushu.... At this point, the local authorities are handling the situation appropriately.” He reportedly dismissed the view that the city is witnessing a second wave.

GOJ hesitant to present numerical criteria for reinstating state of emergency

Asahi wrote the GOJ has chosen to not put forward quantitative benchmarks for reimposing the state of emergency over the coronavirus. The paper said that even though Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Nishimura has said that the GOJ would issue a second declaration without delay if necessary, the Abe administration appears reluctant to present the quantitative thresholds that would trigger a state of emergency. To justify this, the cabinet minister reportedly said: “Such figures could be taken out of context.” In declaring the state of emergency on April 7, the GOJ offered a set of numerical criteria, such as the cumulative rate of new cases in the preceding week of five per 100,000 people. Nishimura has indicated that when reinstating the state of emergency, the GOJ might take a "harder look" at the infection situation.

GOJ fails to keep minutes of coronavirus taskforce panel meetings

Kyodo reported on a finding that the GOJ chose to not keep minutes of discussions by public health experts on a subcommittee of the GOJ coronavirus taskforce, arguing that without such documents it is not possible to properly evaluate the GOJ’s responses to the outbreak since they have been based largely on recommendations and insights by panel members. Since its inception in February, the panel has reportedly met 14 times to analyze the situation and come up with a range of measures for containment, such as avoiding the "Three Cs: closed spaces, crowded places, and close-contact settings.” The article said the government’s decision not to produce such minutes flies in the face of its designation in March of the coronavirus outbreak as a “historic emergency,” which requires government agencies to keep proper records so that lessons can be learned for dealing with similar situations in the future.

Broadcasters ran similar reports, quoting Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Nishimura, who supervises the experts’ committee, as saying to the press today: “It is important for the professionals to have candid discussions. In the first gathering, we decided to create only an outline of the panel discussions without specifying who said what.” Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga also reportedly justified the absence of the minutes on the grounds that experts’ panels do not make policy decisions. However, the opposition bloc is reacting strongly, saying that without such minutes, there is no choice but to view the measures taken by the GOJ to combat the virus as "groundless."  

Only a few dozen antigen tests conducted thus far nationwide

Mainichi took up the disclosure by Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga on Thursday that although some 50,000 COVID-19 antigen test kits have been distributed to hospitals and clinics across the country, only a few dozen of them have been used thus far. According to the government spokesman, none of the tests have produced positive results. He said that "the Health Ministry is considering the proper combination of antigen tests and PCR tests” to detect and isolate virus carriers quickly.

Almost 10,000 Japanese repatriated after being stranded due to COVID-19

Nikkei reported online that according to Foreign Minister Motegi, some 10,000 Japanese citizens who were stranded abroad because of the coronavirus pandemic have been repatriated. While approximately 280 more remained stranded overseas as of today, over 200 of them are likely to be brought home by the end of next week.

•  Infographic: 17,471 persons in Japan confirmed to be infected with COVID-19   (NHK digital)

•  MHLW considering allowing COVID patients to be discharged from hospitals without PCR test   (Mainichi)

•  30 prefectures set own standards for business closure requests, as they brace for second outbreak   (Yomiuri)

•  Looking for “Factor X”–the factor limiting COVID-19 impact in Japan   (Sankei)

•  METI to build inventory-checking system to prevent supply shortages during emergencies   (Nikkei)

•  Editorial: The state of emergency is lifted: What’s next?   (The Japan Times)

•  Japan govt, governors agree to promote migration to fight virus   (Jiji Press)


•  Comfort women scandal shakes South Korean politics and society   (Nikkei Asian Review)

•  If Japan and South Korea join hands, they can become world leaders, ROK–Japan Parliamentarians’ Union leader   (Tokyo Shimbun)

•  Editorial: Legislation in Hong Kong that tramples on ‘1 country, 2 systems’ unacceptable   (The Japan News)

•  Opinion: China has “crossed the Rubicon”   (Yomiuri)

•  Viewpoint: U.S. and China, fearing they’re vulnerable, take hardline stances   (Asahi)

•  Huawei searches for alternate procurement route for semiconductors   (Nikkei)

•  Opinion: Japan’s role in post-coronavirus world   (Nikkei)

•  Japan to prioritize businesspeople in easing entry curbs   (Jiji Press)

•  Editorial: Tokyo should not be blind to plight of refugees in virus crisis   (The Asahi Shimbun)

•  Made in China 2025’ is very much alive, Omron exec says   (Nikkei Asian Review)


•  Japan govt reiterates downbeat economic view due to virus   (Jiji Press)

•  Coronavirus changing landscape of Japan’s sharing economy   (Kyodo News)

•  Hydrogen transported from overseas using new technology successfully fuels power plant in Japan   (Kanagawa Shimbun)

•  Japan’s 8 major automakers’ global output drops 60% on year in April   (Kyodo News)

•  Nissan reports second-worst results in history   (Jiji Press)

•  Japan’s IHI, JR West furlough thousands as demand plummets   (Nikkei Asian Review)

•  NTT keeps teleworking as the new norm in post-pandemic Japan   (Nikkei Asian Review)

•  Hoshino Resorts to launch $185m Japan hotel rescue fund   (Nikkei Asian Review)

•  Exclusive: BOJ’s JGB holdings top 500 t. yen   (Jiji Press)


MOD to build hangar at SDF base in Chiba to house U.S. Ospreys

Kyodo reported that the Defense Ministry plans to construct a hangar at GSDF Camp Kisarazu in Chiba to shelter USMC MV-22s based at MCAS Futenma. The plan was drawn up in response to a U.S. military request for the maintenance facility there to accommodate as many as seven Ospreys at a time. The existing hangar reportedly can house only three or four of the tilt-rotor aircraft. According to the article, the U.S. military is hoping that periodic maintenance of CV-22s can also be performed at the same Japanese installation beginning in 2023.

•  Commentary: The impact of compensation politics on Japan’s defense   (The Japan Times)


•  Prime minister’s schedule on May 28, 2020   (Sankei)

•  Editorial: Commission on Constitution must discuss preparation for emergencies   (The Japan News)

•  Diet panel on constitution holds 1st meeting in current session   (Jiji Press)


•  Japan Medical Association president to step down in June 2020   (Nikkei)

•  Gaku Shibata to become director of Yomiuri Shimbun’s Osaka headquarters   (Nikkei)


•  70% of Japanese consider living standards middle class, Yomiuri poll   (The Japan News)

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team