l The number of newly infected people is staying at around 300 to 400 a day nationally, and somewhere between 50 and 200 in Tokyo. In average, less than 10 people are dying every day due to the Corona induced pneumonia.
l As the third stimulus after Go To Travel and Go To Eat, Go To Shopping Street campaign started this month. Instead of giving monetary incentive to individual consumers, the government provides a group of small retail shops on a shopping street with its subsidy to share the cost of holding events, equipping the street with COVID-19 disinfection devices, creating online shopping sites and so forth.
l According to the latest trade statics, which were announced on October 19 by Ministry of Finance, Japan’s entire exports for the six months from April to September this year went down by 19.2% from the same period last year, while its imports declined by 18.1%. The magnitude of the decrease, however, is diminishing toward September, the exports of which decreased by just 4.9% from a year ago.
l According to Yomiuri’s national survey for the month of October, 56% of the respondents approved the central government’s response to COVID-19 thus far. The approval rating jumped from the last time of 27% in August. In the meantime, 48% think it appropriate for the government to take the initiatives of Go To Travel to stimulate the economy, while 44% think it’s not. To the question which the administration should give priority to, stopping the COVID-19 infection or the economic recovery, 59% said its priority should be given to COVID-19 countermeasures (3% up from September), while 32% replied the economy matters first (6% up).
l The government of Japan and of China agreed this week to reopen mutual visits by business persons without the 14 days of quarantine on condition that both nations’ visitors abide by some pre-visit test procedures agreed by the two governments. There are around 32,000 Japanese companies in China, and around 373,000 businesspersons visited Japan last year.
l Yomiuri reported on October 22 that the Japanese government is coordinating internally to enable businesspersons from top 30 inbound countries to make an entry to Japan without the 14 days of quarantine as long as their stay in Japan is limited to 72 hours or less, and certain test procedures are followed. Visitors from Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Taiwan, Korea and China had been given entry permissions considering their individual low infection rates, and business demand, but this time, the enlarged scope of countries may include the United States and India where the infection rates are still relatively high.
Yomiuri’s monthly survey, which was conducted on October 16, 17 and 18, revealed that the approval rating of the Suga Cabinet went down by 7 points to 67% from the previous month, while its disapproval rating went up to 21% from 14%. 68% of the respondents approved Suga Administration’s policy to streamline the administrative procedures such as abolishing the requirement of hanko seals on internal and external documents.
There is an open issue that the Suga Administration rejected 6 candidates out of 105 to be appointed as new members of Science Council of Japan, an independent council of members with academic background.Its members are supposed to provide the administration with opinions, ideas or criticism from scientific viewpoints for its policies and their implementation.
Although an administration is legally given the right to decide and appoint the council members, there has never been a case where any past administration declined to appoint any single candidate of new members recommended by the Science Council.
So, the council and the opposition parties are voicing out to demand the administration to clarify and explain why and how the rejection of the six candidates were made. Since then, several press conferences not only by the Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato but also by PM Suga himself were made to clear the suspicion that this administrative decision was made for the government convenience.
Under the monthly survey, only 32% of the respondents said the explanations were understandable, while 47% replied not understandable. This issue might have contributed to the declination of Suga’s approval rating, but he still keeps relatively high score in his second month as PM.
PM Suga chose Vietnam and Indonesia as the destination of his first foreign visits in this week, and met with PM Phuc of Vietnam on October 19 and with President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) of Indonesia on October 20. Suga’s top agenda was to promote the Free and Open Indo-Pacific Ocean concept to the two leaders for collaboration in the region, because the three countries share the concern of China’s regional expansionism.
Vietnam has territorial issues against China in the South China Sea, while Indonesia is concerned that its overdependence on the Chinese economy could lose its grip over its own economy. Suga’s 2nd agenda was to promote Japanese supply chains to the two ASEAN nations by reducing Japan’s present supply chain in China.
The Japanese manufacturing industries and medical institutions’ operations were severely affected by the stoppage of supplies of parts and components as well as PPE that are made in China in the early stage of the COVID-19 infection, and during the lockdown of Wuhan.
And the third agenda was to promote bilateral defense cooperation including exporting Japanese maritime defense equipment to strengthen the naval defense capability of the two nations and to defend their territorial seas. Besides, PM Suga offered to PM Phuc to reopen visits for mutual business people’s without quarantine.
On October 16, PM Suga made his plan public to set a goal of the number of inbound visitors in 2030 as 60 million. He himself had made the campaign “Go To Travel” during his last days of Chief Cabinet Secretary to stimulate the domestic tourism demand, which has mobilized around 25 million domestic travelers, yet recognizing only 27 travel driven patients infected by COVID-19. With this positive result demonstrated by the domestic campaign, PM Suga announced that he would take initiative to stimulate inbound demand by making the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games of next year as a spring board.
Toshiba announced on October 18 that it would begin providing its invented quantum cryptographic communication on a subscription service basis within this fiscal year (～March 31, 2021). Starting to provide the Japanese security related bodies like the Self Defense Forces and the Police Agency, Toshiba will expand to serve private industries and abroad, it announced.
Reportedly, Toshiba partnered with Verizon in the United States, and with BT Group in the United Kingdom to provide the cryptographic communication service. They say it is theoretically impossible to breach a Quantum cryptographic communication system.
Yomiuri reported on October 20 that Japan’s Defense Minister Kishi and Australian Defense Minister Reynolds agreed on October 19 to coordinate procedures to enable the Japanese Self Defense Force to protect the Australian military forces during a joint exercise or under a surveillance mission by the Australian forces in the seas near Japan.
Furthermore, the Australian government announced on the same day to participate in a Japan-U.S.-India joint naval exercise called Malabar that is scheduled to take place in November.
Australia had suspended its participation in this joint naval exercise since 2008 when China strongly reacted against the country’s move.