State of emergency takes effect in 7 more prefectures – Nationwide
A COVID-19 state of emergency took effect in seven more prefectures, with restrictions on business activity aimed at curbing Japan’s largest yet wave of infections. Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Shizuoka, Kyoto, Hyogo and Fukuoka will be under the measure until Sept 12, joining Chiba, Saitama, Tokyo, Kanagawa, Osaka and Okinawa. Under the state of emergency, major commercial facilities such as department stores and shopping malls are being called on to limit the number of customers allowed in at the same time, in addition to restaurants and bars being barred from serving alcohol or offering karaoke and those not serving them asked to close by 8 p.m.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has also called on the public to reduce outings to crowded places by 50 percent, and for firms to have employees work from home and cut the number of commuters by 70 percent. Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told a press conference that foot traffic in Tokyo’s major entertainment districts was down roughly 35 percent compared to early July, referring to the latest figure, and vowed that the government will continue efforts to reach the 50 percent target.
A further 10 prefectures — Miyagi, Yamanashi, Toyama, Gifu, Mie, Okayama, Hiroshima, Kagawa, Ehime and Kagoshima — came under a quasi-state of emergency, which allows governors to target specific areas with restrictions and carries smaller fines for noncompliance, in addition to six areas already under the measure. Their addition means 29 of Japan’s 47 prefectures, or roughly 84 percent of the population, are now under some kind of restrictions on business activity, less than two weeks after the Tokyo Olympics wrapped up and days before the Paralympics begin.
While some people in the country are calling for more drastic measures such as the lockdowns that have been imposed in some other countries, Suga has expressed doubt over the effectiveness of those steps. The nationwide count of new COVID-19 cases in a single day topped 25,000 for the first time. The number of patients in serious condition hit a record high for the eighth consecutive day at 1,816, with the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus spreading rapidly.
Japan’s governors call for COVID lockdown – Nationwide
Japan’s governors urged the central government to consider imposing a lockdown to better contain a spike in COVID-19 cases, calling the current measures “ineffective” in fighting the highly contagious Delta variant rapidly spreading across the country. The call by the National Governors’ Association during their online meeting came after a COVID state of emergency took effect in seven more prefectures the same day, with restrictions on business activity aimed at curbing Japan’s largest-yet wave of infections. The governors echoed calls by some people in the country seeking more drastic measures such as the lockdowns that have been imposed in some other countries. But Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has expressed doubt over the effectiveness of those steps.
Japan has been struggling to secure hospital beds in the wake of a resurgence of infections, with a record 25,876 new cases confirmed across the country including 5,405 cases in Tokyo. The country also faces challenges such as taking care of COVID patients recuperating at home and speeding up the vaccination program. How to restrict people’s movements is also an issue, as the latest emergency appears to have lost its impact on public behaviour.
In a set of proposals compiled by the association and to be submitted soon to the central government, the governors seek a lockdown as a temporary COVID measure, saying the state must swiftly consider steps enabling tougher restrictions on people’s movements such as legislation to impose a lockdown. The governors also called for a nationwide state of emergency to prevent the flow of people across prefectural borders, and criticised the government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak in light of the spread of the Delta variant and increasing medical strains.
Man claiming to be Russian who swam to Japan seeking asylum appears in Hokkaido town – Hokkaido
Shibetsu is a small fishing town on the east coast of Hokkaido with a population of only a few thousand people. It’s also one of the few corners of Japan not accessible by train and about a 6 hours’ drive from Sapporo, leaving it a rather quiet, peaceful community. So it came as quite a shock when an unidentified man turned up at the Nakashibetsu Police Station on Aug 19 and told them that he had just swam in from Russia and was seeking asylum. The man — described as dressed all in sportswear with sneakers, a brimmed hat, and face mask — was found by a pedestrian and taken to a police box for help.
For those who are aware that the Russian controlled island of Kunashir is just off the coast of Shibetsu, it might not seem like such an impossible journey. But it’s still a good 20-kilometer swim in 15℃ water, which is said to cause people to black out in a matter of hours. Kunashir is the nearest to Japan of the Kuril Islands archipelago, an island chain which is administered by Russia but under dispute by Japan. Russia seized control of the islands at the very end of World War II, but Japan feels that the ensuing treaties don’t give them the complete control they currently exercise. The matter is still under negotiation between the two countries.
As for the mysterious visitor to Shibetsu, little is known about why he chose to flee the rather remote island with only a slightly larger population than the town he arrived in. The man also had told police that he wants asylum in a “third country” that isn’t Japan or Russia. Hokkaido Prefectural Police and the Sapporo Regional Immigration Bureau are currently investigating his claim and trying to confirm his identity.