Japan ends COVID-19 quasi-emergency in 18 prefectures – Nationwide
A COVID-19 quasi-state of emergency ended in all 18 prefectures covered, including Tokyo and Osaka, amid a declining trend in the number of new infections. It is the first time since Jan. 8 that Japan has no emergency measures in place. But concerns remain that coronavirus cases could rise again driven by the highly contagious Omicron subvariant BA.2, with movements of people expected to increase significantly as the business and academic year ends in the coming days.
The government formally decided to lift the quasi-emergency based on new criteria, including allowing it to end if the strain on the health care system is expected to ease despite infection numbers staying at high levels. In some regions, the occupancy rate of designated hospital beds was above 50 percent, according to the health ministry, indicating a continuing burden on the health care system. Since the beginning of this year, the quasi-state of emergency, which allowed governors to request restaurants and bars to close early and stop serving alcohol, had been in place in as many as 36 of the nation’s 47 prefectures.
The 18 prefectures where the quasi-emergency was lifted include Hokkaido, Kanagawa, Aichi, Kyoto, Kagawa and Kumamoto. They had all seen the measures extended twice before. A quasi-emergency is more limited in terms of coverage and restrictions than a full state of emergency.
M7.4 quake in northeast Japan likely caused by 2021 temblor: experts – Tohoku Region
The magnitude-7.4 earthquake which struck north-eastern Japan is likely to have been caused by the temblor at the same location in February 2021, experts say, warning that strong seismic activity should continue in the area. The powerful quake off the Fukushima coast is considered to be an aftershock of the M9.0 quake in 2011 which devastated the same north-eastern region and triggered the nuclear disaster, but its focus was much deeper at 57 kilometres below the seabed than 24 km 11 years ago.
Experts suspect that the quake which left three people dead and over 180 injured, was directly triggered by the M7.3 temblor occurring at almost the same location at a depth of 55 km on Feb 13, 2021. Both quakes registered an upper 6 on Japan’s seismic intensity scale of 7 in parts of Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures.
The relationship of the two quakes one year apart is “like a twin,” says Takashi Furumura, professor of seismology at the University of Tokyo. Shinji Tooda, Tohoku University’s professor of seismology, agrees, saying the parts of fault that ruptured in 2021 and this year sat next to each other, and they are “undoubtedly” related. The quake in February 2021 left over 150 people injured.
The temblor was stronger than the one a year ago in terms of both short and long waves, causing buildings in areas away from the epicentre to shake to an extent that elevators were stopped and a shinkansen (bullet train) derailed in Miyagi, according to Kojiro Irikura, visiting professor of seismology at Aichi Institute of Technology. Powerful quakes attributable to a similar fault movement mechanism are likely to continue occurring off the north-eastern coast where the Pacific plate meets a continental plate, experts say.
Some local gov’ts in Japan halt exchanges with Russian sister cities – Nationwide
Some local governments in Japan have decided to halt exchange activities with their sister cities in Russia following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine late last month, with a few municipalities openly criticizing the act and sending protest letters over the aggression. A total of 43 municipalities in Japan have sister cities in Russia, according to the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations. But a majority of them are not considering completely severing ties with their partners.
The city of Hiroshima that was planning to celebrate the 50th anniversary of sister-city ties with Volgograd in the southern part of Russia said on March 9 it will cancel the dispatch of a delegation led by its mayor originally scheduled for September.
Russian President Vladimir Putin placed his country’s nuclear forces on high alert earlier this month, in the face of continuing resistance from Ukraine’s troops and the rollout of economic sanctions from the United States and its allies.
Yuriko Koike, the governor of Tokyo, which is a sister city of Moscow, said at a press conference on March 11 that she will suspend exchange programs between the two cities. Osaka city, meanwhile, sent a letter to its Russian sister city St. Petersburg, urging the country’s forces to retreat from Ukraine. In a similar move, Maizuru city in Kyoto Prefecture, which has ties with Nakhodka in Russia’s Far East, criticized Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Tottori Prefecture and Kamo city in Niigata Prefecture have released similar statements. Niigata city, which has ties with Vladivostok, Khabarovsk and Birobidzhan, canceled a plan to dispatch its delegation to the country.
The announcements by Japanese municipalities to suspend exchange activities came as the Ukrainian Embassy in Japan called for an end to sister-city alliances between Russia and Japan in a Twitter post. But many cities in Japan were not convinced by the embassy’s call, as they perceive such interactions to be different from those conducted on a national level.