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What’s Happening Now in Fukuoka & Japan September 2021

10/01/2021

Japan’s universities tightening background checks on foreign students – Nationwide

Japan’s major universities including those with close ties with China are moving to tighten background checks on foreign students seeking to study civil-military technologies, according to a Kyodo News survey. Their efforts to keep sensitive information from being transferred out of Japan comes after the government of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced a plan in June to tighten control on exports of technologies that can be used for military purposes, requiring students under strong influence of foreign governments to gain the industry ministry’s approval for working on such research.

The survey collected responses from 56 universities including those having student exchange agreements with Chinese universities known as the “Seven Sons of National Defense” which have close links to China’s defense industry. Of the surveyed schools, 31 said they have tightened student background checks or are planning to do so.

They have started to check with schools about which foreign students have attended and the companies they have worked for. Some universities ask students whether they wish to find a military-related job, while others request details about research funding students receive. Previously, many schools only asked about the last schools students attended.

As of May last year, there were some 280,000 foreign students in Japan, with those from China accounting for over 40 percent. Japan currently does not have strict rules on research by foreign students and researchers on so-called dual-use technologies with military applications such as artificial intelligence.

Gov’t leans toward lifting state of emergency at end of month – Nationwide

The Japanese government is leaning toward at least partially lifting the COVID-19 state of emergency covering 19 prefectures including Tokyo at the end of the month, government and ruling party sources said.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is eager to ease restrictions for all the prefectures and expected to announce a final decision at a task force meeting, as he is set to step down as premier within days of the Liberal Democratic Party choosing its new leader on Sept 29, the sources said.

Under the state of emergency, people are urged to avoid going to crowded areas, while restaurants are asked to close by 8 p.m. and not serve alcohol. Attendance at large events such as concerts and sports games is limited to 5,000 or 50 percent of venue capacity, whichever number is smaller.

The Japanese capital joined Okinawa in becoming subject to the emergency declaration on July 12 and remained under the measure during the Olympics and Paralympics, which were held with almost no spectators at venues. The other areas were placed under the measure in August.

Nationwide infections peaked at around 25,000 per day in August and have steadily declined since, with 1,767 new cases reported. But hospitals continue to be strained by the large number of COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms, and there are concerns the just-ended three-day weekend may have triggered new outbreaks.

Some prefectures, such as Okinawa, where the situation has yet to significantly improve could get another extension of the state of emergency or may be downgraded to a quasi-state of emergency, which entails more limited restrictions, the sources said.

Suga is set to travel to the United States to attend a quadrilateral summit with Australia and India, and upon returning is expected to discuss with members of his cabinet including Nishimura and health minister Norihisa Tamura to what extent the measures currently in place can be lifted.

Japan’s elderly to get COVID-19 booster shots in early 2022 – Nationwide

Japan will start administering third doses of COVID-19 vaccine to the elderly early next year, vaccination minister Taro Kono said, as the country aims to better respond to the spread of more contagious variants.

The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare decided to give booster shots to people who have gone at least eight months since receiving their second dose, citing studies that show antibodies that protect against the disease decrease over time.

Medical personnel are expected to get their booster shots within the year, Kono told a press conference, as they were the first to be vaccinated in Japan starting in February. The vaccine rollout expanded to people aged 65 and older in the spring followed by those with underlying conditions such as diabetes and finally the general population. Kono called on local governments to begin preparations to ensure the smooth delivery of third doses to the elderly.

While many countries including the United States are getting ready to make booster shots available as they look to restore social and economic activity to pre-pandemic levels, the World Health Organization has called for holding off on doing so until people in poorer countries have been vaccinated.


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