Japan’s 2nd state of emergency met with public indifference – Nationwide
Japan’s expanded state of emergency went into effect Thursday as the government seeks to stop a surge of new coronavirus infections, though with the restrictions not binding many people appeared to be ignoring the requests to avoid nonessential travel. People were still commuting on crowded trains and buses in Osaka, Fukuoka, and other areas of the seven new prefectures placed under the state of emergency. In Tokyo, where the emergency decree has already been in place for a week, the governor expressed concern about people not following the official guidance.
Under the state of emergency that now covers areas home to more than half of Japan’s population, bars and restaurants have been asked to close by 8 p.m., employers have been asked to have 70% of their staff work from home and residents in the affected areas have been asked to avoid going out for nonessential purposes. Reduced capacity has also been requested for sports and other events.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government has said the measures are needed to prevent an increase in infections in urban areas from spilling over to smaller towns where medical systems are vulnerable. Suga has called the situation “severe” and asked the people to cooperate, though in Japan the requests are nonbinding and those who ignore them are not punished. Koike urged the country’s main business organization to encourage employers to do more to promote remote work and reduce commuting as requested by the government.
Japan has seen coronavirus infections and deaths roughly double over the past month to about 302,000 and 4,200 respectively. Tokyo alone reported 1,502 new cases on Thursday. Experts say people are not responsive to the emergency measures due to growing complacency. Suga has said he will seek the revision of a law to allow his government to issue binding measures with penalties for violators. The Cabinet minister in charge of the coronavirus measures, Yasutoshi Nishimura, told a special parliamentary panel Thursday that further expansion of the emergency is possible if infections spread. The emergency decree now covers Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba, Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Fukuoka, Aichi, Gifu and Tochigi prefectures.
Tokyo District Court upholds ban on dual citizenship – Tokyo
A Japanese court upheld a ban on dual citizenship on Thursday, rejecting a suit that challenged the measure’s constitutionality and sought damages for those affected. Japan is one of around 50 countries internationally, including China and South Korea, that only permits its citizens to hold one nationality.
Under current rules, Japanese people who acquire another passport are asked to relinquish their Japanese citizenship, but in 2018 eight plaintiffs started legal proceedings, arguing the rule was unconstitutional. One of them, Hitoshi Nogawa, has told reporters that being forced to give up his nationality was a “painful experience.” The plaintiffs are six men who have already obtained Swiss or Liechtenstein citizenship, and two Japanese men who want to obtain foreign citizenship without losing their Japanese passports, local media said.
They argued that the rule was a violation of the constitution’s right to pursue happiness and protection of equality under the law. But on Thursday, the Tokyo District Court rejected their suit and request for damages, a spokesman said, upholding the constitutionality of the rule.
The government argued there was no national interest in permitting multiple citizenships, Kyodo news agency reported. The issue was thrust into the spotlight with the rise to fame of tennis star Naomi Osaka, who was born in Japan to a Japanese mother and Haitian father but raised in the United States.
Kono backtracks on target to secure enough COVID-19 shots by June – Nationwide
Japan’s vaccine program chief on Friday walked back on a goal to secure enough targeted supplies of COVID-19 vaccines by June, one month before the planned start of the Tokyo Olympics. Taro Kono, the newly installed head of Japan’s inoculation push, told reporters that “old information” was behind a spokesman’s comments on Thursday that the government expects to have enough vaccines for its targeted population by mid-year.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has pledged to have enough shots for the Japanese populace by the middle of 2021. But production and distribution problems have hampered vaccine rollouts across the globe, and Japan already trails most major economies in starting its inoculation campaign. Kono said Pfizer’s vaccine will be used for the first shots, starting with 10,000 medical workers at 100 hospitals. The next priority after medical workers was to vaccinate the elderly, those with health conditions and elderly care facility workers.
Japan has made deals to purchase 144 million doses, enough to inoculate 72 million people, from Pfizer. It has also secured 50 million doses from Moderna Inc and 120 million from AstraZeneca Plc. Altogether, that would be more than enough for Japan’s population of 126 million. Japan requires domestic trials for vaccines before granting regulatory approval. Pfizer’s is expected to be approved next month, while Moderna started its first domestic trial on Thursday. AstraZeneca has done a trial in Japan but has not yet filed for approval.