- On Tuesday 22 September the Tokyo metropolitan government reported 88 new cases of the coronavirus, 10 down from Monday. The number is the result of 1,014 tests conducted on 19 September. The tally brought Tokyo’s cumulative total to 24,394. The number of infected people in Tokyo with severe symptoms is 30, three up from Monday, health officials said.
Nationwide, the number of reported cases was 331. After Tokyo, the prefectures with the most cases were Osaka (67), Kanagawa (38), Chiba (18), Saitama (14) , Hyogo (13), Gunma (13) and Kagoshima (11). Five coronavirus-related deaths were reported.
- Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide and US President Donald Trump have agreed to further strengthen the Japan-US alliance. Suga talked with Trump by telephone for about 25 minutes on Sunday night in their first phone call since Suga took office on 16 September.
After the talks, Suga told reporters that President Trump assured him they would work together to further develop the alliance, which they consider the foundation for regional peace and stability.
Suga asked Trump for full US support in resolving the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea. The president responded he would work closely with Japan on the issue. The leaders agreed the two allies will cooperate on the development and distribution of a vaccine and treatment for COVID-19.
They also confirmed close cooperation to realize a free and open Indo-Pacific region. Trump told Suga to call anytime 24 hours a day in the event of a contingency. The prime minister told reporters that he is willing to hold telephone talks with other world leaders to deepen bilateral relations.
- A tropical storm developing in the Pacific Ocean, was slowly sweeping toward Japan on Tuesday, threatening the main island of Honshu with heavy rainfall and harsh winds. Tropical Storm Dolphin had sustained winds of up to 51 miles per hour as of Tuesday morning.
Heavy rainfall have set off mudslides and flooding in wide areas of Japan recently, and the Japan Meteorological Agency warned even weak storms can wreak havoc. Dolphin is forecast to bring turbulent seas, wind and rain on a projected course over southern Honshu, including the major city of Osaka and surrounding areas in central Japan, by Wednesday. It will then move northeast over Tokyo, and then to Sendai and nearby areas in northern Japan later in the week, the agency said.
Earlier this month, some parts of Japan and the Korean Peninsula were slammed by Typhoon Haishen, which damaged buildings and flooded roads.
- Major Japanese light equipment maker Ushio Inc has recently launched an ultraviolet lamp that can kill the coronavirus without harming human health — the first of its kind in the world.
The Care 222 UV lamp, which Ushio developed together with Columbia University, is expected to be used for disinfection at occupied spaces where people keep coming in and out and the risk of contracting the deadly virus runs high, such as buses, trains, elevators and offices, the company said.
UV lamps have been widely used as an effective means of sterilization notably in the medical and food-processing industries. But conventional UV rays cannot be used in spaces where there are people as they cause skin cancer and eye problems.
Ushio’s new lamp, however, emits the UV rays with a wavelength of 222 nanometers, as opposed to the conventional 254-nanometer wavelength, making them lethal to germs but benign to humans. At this particular wavelength, the firm said, UV rays cannot infiltrate the surface of the skin nor the eyes to bring about cancer-causing genetic defects and other damage.
The Care 222, when emitted from a ceiling, inactivates 99% of viruses and bacteria in the air and up to a 3-square-meter surface of objects some 2.5 meters away from the lamp, in six to seven minutes.
A recent third-party study by Hiroshima University confirmed the 222-nanometer UV rays are effective in killing the new coronavirus, Ushio said. The 1.2-kilogram Care 222 emitting device comes in about the size of a hardcover book and with a price tag of 300,000 yen. The company said it only accepts orders from medical institutions for the moment but will serve other customers once production catches up with demand.
Ushio has also teamed up with Toshiba Lighting and Technology Corp, a subsidiary of Toshiba Corp, to develop general-purpose lamps with Care 222 emitters installed to cater to a broad range of situations. The companies aim to release such products next January.
- Fujifilm Holdings Corp said Monday it has completed delayed clinical tests of Avigan, a potential treatment for COVID-19, paving the way for the application of sales and production of the antivirus drug.
Fujifilm Toyama Chemical Co, a subsidiary of Fujifilm Holdings, is conducting analysis of data from the tests to confirm the safety and efficacy of Avigan, which could be the third drug for the treatment of novel coronavirus patients if approved by the government. In Japan, the antiviral drug remdesivir developed by U.S. firm Gilead Sciences Inc was given the green light in May, followed by the steroid drug dexamethasone.
Fujifilm Toyama began clinical tests in March to see if Avigan was effective in treating patients with the respiratory disease caused by the virus and they were initially expected to end by June. But it was delayed as a downtrend in the number of new infection cases in the country made it difficult to gather enough patient data, targeted at 96.
Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had expressed hope to have the drug, also known as favipiravir, approved in May but a Japanese university’s interim report, released in mid-May, did not show any clear efficacy of Avigan against COVID-19. Japan saw a resurgence in new virus cases following the lifting of a state of emergency in late May but the numbers of infections have moderated recently.
- Japan’s tallest skyscraper around 390 meters high, which is scheduled to be built in front of Tokyo Station in fiscal 2027, will be named “Torch Tower,” its developer Mitsubishi Estate Co said Thursday.
The new landmark with 63 stories above ground and four underground will be a complex of offices, commercial facilities and a hall accommodating around 2,000 people. A luxury hotel and an observation deck, where visitors can view Mt Fuji, Japan’s tallest mountain, will be located in the upper floors.
The name Torch Tower comes from a wish to lighten up Japan like a torch, Mitsubishi Estate said. The planned skyscraper is part of a development project, with three other buildings and a 7,000-square-meter plaza slated for construction in a 31,400-square-meter area near Tokyo’s Marunouchi business and commercial district.
“By adding a new attraction, we will shape Marunouchi into a district that would be chosen by businesses,” Mitsubishi Estate President Junichi Yoshida said at a press conference Thursday.
The current tallest building in the country is the 300-meter Abeno Harukas in Osaka. Under a skyscraper project by Mori Building Co, a 330-meter-tall building is scheduled to be completed in central Tokyo in 2023. The world’s tallest building is 828-meter Burj Khalifa in the United Arab Emirates.
- Movie theaters, sports games and other events drew large numbers over the weekend after Japan relaxed a rule limiting the size of crowds in yet another sign of a gradual return to social and economic activities following the outbreak of COVID-19.
A baseball game between the DeNA BayStars and the Yomiuri Giants at Yokohama Stadium drew a total of 13,106 spectators on Saturday, making it the first domestic sports event to top the 10,000 mark since the outbreak of the virus. Stadiums can now be filled to up to 50% of their capacities.
Reservations for domestic flights with All Nippon Airways for Saturday — the first day of the four-day weekend — totaled 87,000, the highest level since 28 February. The carrier said it has booked an average of 69,000 reservations per day over the four-day period.
The surge of domestic travel stands in contrast to previous holidays, such as the summer Bon holiday period. Previously, people living in congested urban areas were asked to avoid making trips to see their families or visit tourist attractions in areas with fewer cases of COVID-19.
A study by mobile carrier NTT Docomo showed the number of people Saturday at a domestic terminal at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, as well as at train stations and shopping districts nationwide, had basically returned to pre-pandemic levels.
Saturday’s easing of the rules on crowd sizes came three days after the Tokyo Metropolitan Government lifted a request that restaurants, bars, karaoke parlors and other businesses serving alcohol in the capital’s 23 wards close operations at 10 p.m.
“It is important to balance the prevention of infection and the promotion of economic activities,” economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said Saturday.
The government will decide whether to keep the attendance rule in place beyond November after reviewing coronavirus and seasonal influenza infection trends, according to officials.
Speaking at a news conference Friday in Tokyo, Nishimura said that avoiding the 3Cs — confined spaces, crowded places and close-contact settings — was a prerequisite for relaxing restrictions. “I want business operators to thoroughly enforce basic measures to prevent the spread of the virus,” he said.