Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo ask gov’t to lift state of emergency early – Kansai
Three prefectures asked the central government to lift the state of emergency in their areas this weekend over the coronavirus pandemic ahead of its schedule end date on March 7, Osaka Gov Hirofumi Yoshimura said. The governors of Kyoto, Osaka and Hyogo made a joint request to economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who is leading the country’s response to the pandemic, citing improvements in the number of hospital beds available for COVID-19 patients and the slowing pace of infections.
The state of emergency, Japan’s second over the pandemic, was initially declared on Jan 7 for one month, covering Tokyo and three neighbouring prefectures. On Jan 13, it was expanded to seven other prefectures including the three western areas and later extended through March 7 for 10 of the 11 prefectures. Under the virus emergency, people are asked to refrain from unnecessary outings and restaurants and bars to close early. The three prefectures have cited improvements in the number of hospital beds available for COVID-19 patients and the slowing pace of infections.
Kyoto Gov Takatoshi Nishiwaki has said that even if the state of emergency is lifted, the prefecture would continue to ask restaurants and bars to shorten business hours to prevent a resurgence of infections. The governor of another prefecture, Aichi in central Japan, said he has already made a similar request with the central government.
Tokyo Gov Yuriko Koike is cautious about lifting the emergency declaration in the capital, which is still seeing a “severe” infection situation. Koike also said she is planning to hold an online meeting with the governors of the three nearby prefectures of Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa.
Hay fever season arrives in Japan amid coronavirus pandemic – Nationwide
Hay fever season has arrived in Japan, presenting sufferers with an added challenge amid the coronavirus pandemic as rubbing itchy eyes and wiping runny noses may increase the risk of viral infection, while opening doors and windows to improve ventilation could add to the amount of pollen coming indoors. The cedar pollen season had started in 34 of Japan’s 47 prefectures stretching from the Kyushu region in the southwest to the Tokyo metropolitan area, triggered by a rise in temperatures, according to Weathernews Inc.
The allergy-causing pollen is expected to begin dispersing in the Tohoku region in the northeast as well as the Hokuriku area in central Japan later this month, it said. Pollen from Japanese cypress will start tormenting hay-fever sufferers in late March, while people allergic to birch-tree pollen will feel the effects in Hokkaido, the country’s northernmost main island, in late April. The amount of pollen to be released this year is predicted to be lower than the 10-year average between 2011 and 2020 but higher than last year, when it was significantly lower nationwide, according to the private weather information service based in Chiba, east of Tokyo.
Among Japan’s 47 prefectures, all but Hokkaido, Aomori and Okinawa are expected to see higher cedar pollen counts compared with the previous year, Weathernews said. In the southern island prefecture, cedar and cypress trees are rare. In Toyama, Ishikawa, Fukui, Gifu, Aichi, Hiroshima and Oita, in particular, where last year’s pollen emissions amounted to only a third of the level in an average year, the amount of cedar pollen is forecast to be more than double that for 2020.
According to major drugstore chain Welcia, sales of oral medicine to ease hay fever symptoms have been picking up faster than in an average year, with the purchasing peak moving up from March. Daily necessities provider S.T. Corp has published tips on its website for hay-fever sufferers amid the pandemic. It encourages people to look down when they cough or sneeze and to disinfect their hands as quickly as possible to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. The company also recommends wearing glasses, which it says is an effective measure against both hay fever and viral infection.
Pandemic wedding plunge adds to Japan demographic woes – Nationwide
The number of marriages in Japan tumbled amid the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, the health ministry said, likely adding to the wealthy nation’s low birth rate and ageing population problems. Japan last year saw 537,583 marriages, a 12.7% fall from a year earlier – the biggest percentage drop since a 15.1% tumble in 1950, when a post-World War Two marriage boom began to fizzle out, the ministry said.
Unlike in some Western countries, in Japan only a few out of every 100 babies are born out of wedlock, suggesting a stronger correlation between the number of marriages and the number of babies born. Some couples postponed their weddings to wait until large gatherings like wedding receptions can be held again, while others hit by economic difficulties in the pandemic must have given up on marriage altogether, said Takumi Fujinami of the Japan Research Institute.
The number of babies born every year in Japan nearly halved over the 40 years to 2019, leading former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to call the phenomenon a “national crisis”. A declining birth rate and the longevity of the elderly have made the country the world’s most aged society, with 35.9 million people – 28% of the population – aged 65 or above.
Daily COVID-19 cases in Japan have been in decline in recent weeks after peaking in early January, although Tokyo and nine other prefectures are still under a state of emergency. Japan has recorded about 426,000 infections and 7,549 related deaths, according to public broadcaster NHK.