Japan set to fully lift coronavirus emergency in Tokyo, 4 other prefectures – Nationwide
Japan is expected to end its coronavirus-related state of emergency Monday by easing curbs on economic activity in Tokyo and four other prefectures ahead of schedule, with the spread of infections under control. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to announce the decision at a 6 p.m. Monday news conference. As it has done in the rest of the country, the government intends to end the declaration over the Tokyo metropolitan area — including Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama — as well as Hokkaido in northern Japan, economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said.
The emergency declaration, initially declared on April 7 for Tokyo, Osaka and other urban areas which then had relatively high numbers of cases and expanded nationwide nine days later, has already been lifted in 42 of the country’s 47 prefectures. The measure was expected to run until Sunday. An advisory panel needs to assess whether the government plan is appropriate before Abe can formally make a decision. After the emergency is lifted, the government will establish a transitional period and assess the infection situation every three weeks meaning requests for people to stay at home and avoid large gatherings may be eased only gradually. Nishimura said the government will continue to ask people to refrain from crossing prefectural borders until the end of the month.
Japan is lifting the coronavirus emergency declaration roughly seven weeks after it was enforced. Abe expanded the measure to all 47 prefectures in mid-April ahead of the Golden Week holidays from late April to early May to encourage people to cancel their travel plans. Earlier in the month, Abe extended the state of emergency until May 31. But on May 14 he exempted 39 prefectures where the spread of the virus had been brought under control, followed by Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo in western Japan last Thursday. The state of emergency gave prefectural governors legal authority to request people forgo nonessential outings and businesses to suspend their operations, even though Japan cannot legally enforce a hard lockdown similar to those implemented in Europe and the United States.
Japan has so far avoided an explosive surge of virus infections with over 17,200 cases and 853 deaths reported across the nation, but infectious disease experts have been calling on the public to remain alert for a second wave as restrictions are lifted. Japan’s tally includes about 700 infections from the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined off Yokohama near Tokyo in February.
Mt Fuji to be closed to all climbers in summer due to pandemic – Shizuoka
Japan’s beloved Mount Fuji will be closed during this year’s summer climbing season to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, officials said Monday. Shizuoka Prefecture, home to the country’s tallest mountain, announced it was closing three of the four major routes to the mountain’s peak.
It will be the first time the trails of the 3,776-meter volcanic mountain are closed since at least 1960 when the prefecture began managing the routes, he added. The decision comes after nearby Yamanashi Prefecture said it will close the Yoshida trail, the most popular hiking path among the four. The mountain huts along the four routes will remain closed as well.
The mountain, a UNESCO world cultural heritage site, is located just 100 kilometers from Tokyo and is clearly visible from the Japanese capital. It welcomed about 236,000 climbers last year, according to the Mount Fuji official website. Despite Mount Fuji’s majesty, many complain about the actual experience of climbing it, citing the crowded hiking trails and difficult terrain. Perhaps for this reason, a Japanese proverb states: “It is foolish not to climb Mount Fuji once. But it is foolish to climb it twice.”
Only top 30% of foreign students to be eligible for gov’t handouts – Nationwide
The Japanese government has set an additional criteria for foreign students hoping to receiving cash handouts of up to 200,000 yen for students in the country struggling financially amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, making only those in the top 30 percent of grades eligible. The additional condition, which will create a gap in the financial support for students facing hardship in paying for tuition or living costs, has sparked criticism as many foreign students experience the same challenges as their Japanese counterparts.
In explaining its decision, the education ministry has said, “With many foreign students eventually returning to their home countries, we have set a condition to limit the handout to promising talent most likely to contribute to Japan in the future.” As the government will rely on institutions to determine which of their students should receive the assistance, those not meeting the criteria may still be eligible for the handouts, it said.
According to the ministry, requirements for program eligibility include a reduction of over 50 percent in the monthly income from part-time jobs used to support tuition fees and, in general, a yearly allowance of less than 1.5 million yen from family. The student must also be living outside of home. In addition, foreign students must be achieving high marks and have attained a grade point average of at least 2.30 in the past academic year. This accounts for the top 25 to 30 percent of students, the ministry said. Foreign students must also have a monthly attendance rate of over 80 percent, receive less than an average 90,000 yen allowance per month excluding registration and tuition fees, and not be a dependent of someone in Japan earning more than 5 million yen a year.
In order to quickly provide assistance, the government has left the screening of eligible students to each institution. Universities and other schools will select eligible students from a pool comprised of Japan Student Services Organization scholarship recipients and other records.