Tougher virus restrictions expanded to 4 prefectures – Nationwide
The Japanese government decided to expand tougher COVID-19 restrictions to all three of the country’s major metropolitan areas centering on Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya as infections surge less than a month after a state of emergency was lifted. Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama along with Aichi were added to the list of prefectures subject to the measures, including asking restaurants and bars to close by 8 p.m. with fines for noncompliance. The steps will take effect on the 20th and remain in place through the Golden Week holidays until May 11. Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato finalized the decision in place of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is currently on a trip to the United States, at a coronavirus task force meeting.
The tougher restrictions under what has been called a quasi-state of emergency will cover a total of 10 prefectures. Such measures were implemented in Osaka, Hyogo and Miyagi on April 5, with Tokyo, Kyoto and Okinawa added. Coronavirus cases in Japan have steadily increased after a state of emergency was lifted in steps before finally ending in the Tokyo metropolitan area on March 21. The nationwide tally topped 4,000 for a second consecutive day, just under 100 days before the Tokyo Olympics are set to begin. Osaka, the epicenter of the current surge in infections, saw a record 1,209 cases on Friday, while Tokyo reported 667, Aichi 224, Kanagawa 209 and Saitama 163.
The government is calling on people to refrain from making trips between prefectures, and also asking them to avoid crowds when shopping and not using karaoke machines at eateries. Aichi Gov Hideaki Omura and his counterparts near Tokyo had asked the government to give them the authority to impose the tougher restrictions, made possible by a legal revision in February.
They will be able to impose a maximum fine of 200,000 yen ($1,800) on restaurants and bars failing to follow the mandate to close early, though the measures will only be in place in some cities including Yokohama and Nagoya.
Narita airport starts facial recognition trial for faster travel – Chiba
Narita airport started trial use of facial recognition for international travellers, with no need to show passports or flight tickets after check-in. The trial of “Face Express,” which is meant to speed up the boarding process and provide a touchless experience for passengers, only involved airport staff and not actual travellers, Narita International Airport Corp said. The system is scheduled to be adopted at Narita as well as Haneda airport, Tokyo’s other international gateway, in July.
Fliers who wish to use the Face Express system will have their photos taken at check-in when they register their passports and boarding passes. The biometric ID processing will mean that passengers will not have to keep taking out their passports and tickets at the luggage drop, security checkpoints and boarding gates with cameras, ensuring smooth air travel. It will also lead to reduced physical contact between travellers, machines, airport and flight staff, helping to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus during the pandemic, the airport operator said. Passenger data, including facial images, will be deleted within 24 hours after registration to protect privacy.
Narita airport’s Face Express will be used initially by All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines, gradually expanding to other airlines. At Haneda airport, airlines flying international routes will all use the new system.
Kumamoto commemorates 5th anniversary of deadly quakes – Kumamoto
The southwestern Japanese prefecture of Kumamoto commemorated the fifth anniversary of a pair of massive earthquakes that killed 276 people, with hundreds still living in makeshift homes despite progress in the rebuilding of infrastructure.
“The memory of sadness on that day will never disappear. My family has got by with the kindness and support of many people,” said Kenzo Tomioka, who lost his 83-year-old father in one of the quakes, at a memorial ceremony held at the Kumamoto prefectural government office. Tomioka, 58, from the Kumamoto town of Kashima was among the 34 attendants at the ceremony, which was scaled down for the second year in a row due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“We will continue our support until the last person completes rehabilitation. It is also our important responsibility to pass on the experiences (of the quakes) and contribute to disaster reduction and prevention in Japan and abroad,” Kumamoto Gov Ikuo Kabashima said in his speech.
“The government will continue to make utmost efforts for the reconstruction (of disaster-hit regions) by staying close to people affected by the quakes,” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said in a message posted on his office’s website.
On April 14, 2016, a magnitude 6.5 quake struck the region, followed by a temblor of M7.3 two days later. Some 43,000 houses were totally or partially damaged by the quakes in Kumamoto and neighbouring Oita Prefecture, resulting in more than 47,000 taking refuge in makeshift housings at one point.
As of late March this year, 418 still lived in such temporary homes in Kumamoto. Damaged infrastructure has been rebuilt, including railways and the new 525-meter Aso bridge in the village of Minamiaso in Kumamoto, which opened for passage in March to replace a collapsed bridge. The keep of Kumamoto Castle, a popular tourist spot damaged by the quakes, has also been repaired and is set to open for the public from April 26.