- The Tokyo Metropolitan Government on Tuesday reported 212 new cases of the coronavirus, up 134 from Monday. The number is the result of 2,408 tests conducted on 26 September.By age group, the most infections were people in their 20s (52), followed by 33 in their 40s and 31 in their 50s.The tally brought Tokyo’s cumulative total to 25,547. The number of infected people in Tokyo with severe symptoms is 23, down three from Monday, health officials said.
- Yoshiro Mori, the president of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics organizing committee, said Monday that the games would go on next year “no matter what happens.”The former prime minister was speaking at a party held by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s Hosoda faction. He explained that measures now being worked out will make the games safe in the face of the novel coronavirus pandemic that forced their postponement until next July.
A government-led panel has worked out immigration protocols that will allow athletes to travel to Japan and train even if Japan is prohibiting travel from their homeland. “No matter what happens, we will be able to hold the Olympics,” Mori said.
Last week, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach expressed optimism about the games’ prospects, while admitting the situation around the world is still uncertain.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike also agreed that the country will move forward with the global sporting event.“The prime minister and I both hope to move forward with plans to host the 2020 Games,” Koike told reporters at the Prime Minister’s Office following the talks. “Regarding virus countermeasures, the capital will continue to work closely with the central government in strengthening hospital capacity and increasing testing numbers.”
Experts have pointed out repeatedly that, for the games to be held safely, the virus would have to be conquered not just in Japan but in every country from which people are expected to travel to watch the quadrennial sporting event. At the same time, canceling or postponing the event further will have a devastating effect on Japan, which has already spent billions of yen preparing.
The government will exempt athletes competing at next year’s games from the 14-day self-quarantine period currently required for all travelers arriving from abroad. The athletes will have to test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of leaving their own country.
- Japan plans to start easing a travel advisory currently in place for 159 countries and regions in October, starting with those where the pace of new coronavirus infections is slow including Australia, New Zealand and Vietnam, sources close to the matter said Monday.The Foreign Ministry’s travel advisory for the 159 countries and regions currently stands at Level 3, warning against all travel. If it lowers the advisory for some countries to Level 2, it means that non-essential travel should be avoided. No country is subject to Japan’s highest Level 4 advisory which urges all Japanese nationals to evacuate and avoid all travel.
In relaxing immigration restrictions, Japan will allow the entry of foreign nationals with permits to stay for three months or longer for purposes including engaging in medical, cultural and sports-related activities. Business trips for less than three months will also be allowed.
Those travelers must be accepted by entities or organizations capable of ensuring they have tested negative for the virus before entering Japan. After arrival, they have to stay in self-isolation for 14 days and avoid using public transportation during the period.
The government is considering limiting the number of entries to about 1,000 each day. At the same time, it will increase virus testing capacity at airports, government sources said earlier.
“We will start relaxing entry restrictions by looking at the situation of infections in each country and also considering the degree of need (for travel),” economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who is also in charge of the response to the coronavirus, told a press conference.
- Nearly 60% of responding Japanese say information about natural disasters and administrative services should be provided in multiple languages, a government survey shows.In the annual survey by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, 58.1% of respondents said in a multiple-answer question that such information should be provided in a “variety of foreign languages,” while 46.3% said the information should be conveyed in simple Japanese for foreigners to easily understand. The poll also showed that 28.9% said they have opportunities to interact with foreigners, including casual greetings or talking while shopping.
Asked in a multiple-answer question about how they communicate with foreigners on such occasions, 51.3% responded they talk with gestures, followed by 44.7% who said using English or other foreign languages, and 43.7% who said speaking in simple Japanese.
While 20.3% said they use smartphone apps and other translation devices, 23.4% said they use normal Japanese. The survey also found that 68.3% expressed hope that foreign residents have Japanese ability to the extent they do not have trouble in daily life.
The interview survey was conducted between 27 February and 15 March, covering 3,557 people aged 16 or older, of whom 1,994, or 56.1%, provided valid answers, the agency said.
- The coronavirus pandemic has heightened distress felt by unmarried Japanese couples in long-term relationships as they face the prospect that, should one become ill, they would not be afforded the same rights as married couples.Uncomfortable about relinquishing their respective family names, they felt their only option was to remain common-law couples. For this reason, they want a change made to the civil code that would give them legal recognition as a family, changing a requirement that Japanese married couples share a name.
“We prepared our marriage document immediately after April’s declaration of a national emergency against the virus,” said a 46-year-old nurse who has been with her common-law husband for 19 years.
Japanese husbands or wives can take their spouses’ last name, but according to the labor ministry, 96% of those who give up their family name are women.
The lack of legally recognized ties has left the nurse unable to claim spousal tax deductions, and parental and inheritance rights concerns remain. But the novel coronavirus pandemic has heightened the stress and resolve to deal with the issue.
If either is hospitalized by the virus, she worries that it may be difficult to persuade the hospital to share important health updates. They could be refused hospitalization as a family, could be barred from receiving critical treatment information, or be unable to sign consent for medical treatments on the other’s behalf should it be warranted.
There are other worries, too. Since her husband has parental rights, his sudden death would leave her with no legal claim over their children, putting them in a vulnerable position.
A Tokyo-based citizen’s group said that they have received numerous calls during the pandemic from those worried about what to do if they meet with unforeseen circumstances, much like the nurse’s concerns, in which they are not legally recognized as a family.
“The pandemic has made the issue more personal. I want the public to be more aware so anyone can live with the last names they’ve chosen,” said Naho Ida, 44, the group’s executive director.
Japan’s newly installed Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga recently said that the topic needs “cautious discussion” and lawmakers like Tomomi Inada have been relatively vocal about the need for change.
The citizen’s organization, which was created in 2018, says attendance to their study sessions on the issue to which they invite experts and lawmakers has grown, including by those of a conservative bent.
- Japan Airlines is ditching the phrase “ladies and gentlemen” and instead embracing gender neutral terms during in-flight and airport announcements from next month, the company said Monday.From 1 October, JAL “will abolish expressions that based on (two types of) sex and use gender-friendly expression” like “good morning” and “good evening,” a spokesperson for the airline told AFP.
In Japanese, the expression generally used for such announcements is already gender-neutral, but the decision applies to other languages used by the airline.
The decision appears to be a first for major Japanese carriers, with a spokeswoman for rival ANA Holdings telling AFP they would “study the issue based on comments from our customers.”
Same-sex marriage is not legally recognized in Japan but the government has gradually expanded rights protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens in recent years.
JAL last year operated a trial “LGBT Ally Charter” flight for same-sex partners and their families, and has already changed rules to extend spouse and family allowances to same-sex partners.
- The National Police Agency (NPA) is set to start a project to loan vehicle-mounted security cameras to stalking victims free of charge from fiscal 2021. There have been many cases where stalkers have secretly installed GPS trackers in the victims’ cars to find out where they are. The NPA aims to prevent such crimes by using security cameras to identify the perpetrators.An additional 15 million yen has been included in the budget request for the next fiscal year as a subsidy for prefectural police to introduce the project. The NPA estimates that each prefectural police headquarters will install five sets of security cameras, with one set consisting of four devices.
In the first six months of this year, police across Japan exposed 59 cases in which people were caught monitoring targets such as former dating partners in violation of the Anti-Stalking Act.
Meanwhile, Japan’s Supreme Court handed down its first ruling in July that installing GPS devices in cars to remotely check where they are is not covered by the definition of “monitoring” under the anti-stalker law. Nevertheless, as secretly installing GPS devices in another person’s car could escalate into stalking, ambushes and other such acts, the NPA decided to rent out security cameras to protect victims. Police will base their investigation on the footage to identify the stalkers.