l As of today, Japan is deeply infected by the Delta variant. The number of new cases and death are much higher than the peak numbers of the 4th wave.
l Among 47 prefectures in Japan, 21 are under the state of emergency and 12 are under quasi-SoE as of today. These self-control restrictions will last until September 12.
l Vaccination is accelerated for all the generations except for children under 12 years old and younger. Since it is obvious now that small children have been infected by the Delta variant, schools are struggling to find a good balance between students’ safety and progress of learning at school as most of the public schools began the 2nd school term as of September 1 after the school summer break.
l Contamination in the Moderna vaccine doses were found in its three lot numbers. Although those lots were distributed to 863 vaccination sites throughout Japan in the end of July, the Ministry of Welfare and Labor, after getting the report of contamination, decided against using any more dose of these lots, which amount to 1,630,000. Reportedly, two men died after their inoculation, but whether the cause of the death relates to the contamination is yet to be investigated by experts.
l PM Suga announced at a press conference that sufficient amount of booster shots had already been secured, while when to begin the 3rd shot is yet to be announced.
l The Suga administration had originally took the position against using a vaccine passport, which is issued by the government through municipality for international travelers only, for domestic use out of the concern of discriminatory attitude against people without passport. However, with the strong demand from Keidanren, Federation of Economic Organizations, the administration solidified its policy to use the passport for domestic commercial activity, event attendance and visits to care houses etc. by digitizing the passport for smooth recognition and validation.
<As of 10 pm of September 2nd>
The cumulative number of infected and dead in Japan are 1,529,594 and 16,218 respectively.
The number of new cases in the nation for the day was 18,228.
57.62% of the population have finished the first dose of the vaccine, while 46.63% have done for the 2nd.
When PM Suga held a press conference on August 25, he described his administration’s response to Covid-19 had been bearing a fruit in terms of Japan’s relatively low rate of infection related death. The public perception is totally opposite disapproving his response as well as his cabinet’s, and the gaps between almost all the polls’ disapproval ratings and approval ratings are widening.
The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games did not help him regain any political capital, and now, many of the House of Representatives at LDP are wondering under PM Suga’s weakening popularity if they could win the upcoming national election. Originally, PM Suga was expected to dissolve the House of Representatives before its full term (4 years) is completed in October, but due to the aforementioned political climate, which is inclement to him, he is losing the timing of dissolution. He cannot help stating that responding the pandemic comes first and politics are the next, while seeking for opportunities to gain back some political capital.
The media speculates that he might change some of the party leader positions to younger generations and or female representatives to refresh the political atmosphere. Another possible event is LDP’s presidential election, which is scheduled later this month if any.
Originally, Suga had sought for no-election with an unanimous endorsement by the members of LDP, but former Foreign Minister Kishida had already announced his candidacy, and many young members of the party do demand a serious election in this month before the national election. Even if Suga wins the party election this month, whether it provides him with some political momentum for the national election is questionable. Another fact is that the public approval ratings of the opposition parties have been constantly low. So, if LDP finds a new leader this month, it might give the party substantial momentum before the national election of the House of Representatives in October.
The Ministry of Defense announced on August 25 that it conducted a joint exercise with the U.S., U.K. and Netherland forces on August 24 in some sea and air space south of Okinawa. Destroyer Ise of the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force made a formation cruise with its counterpart of the U.S. Navy, Royal U.K. Navy and Royal Dutch Navy. Royal UK Navy’s aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth and its onboard F-35Bs participated in the surface and air exercise. The MoD also announced that the Japan Air Self Defense Force’s fighter squadron made a scramble operation against a Chinese attack type UAV, which is designated as TB001, which flew over the East China Sea on August 24. Another scramble operation was made on the following day against a Chinese UAV flying through the air space between Okinawa’s main land and Miyako Island.
Meanwhile, Yomiuri reported that Japan Coast Guard solidified its policy to strengthen its fleet of large patrol boats (displacement 1,000 ton or larger) by building three new 3,500 ton class vessels and one 1,000 ton class. Chinese Coast Guard ships stayed in the contiguous zone of the Senkaku Archipelagos for 217 days as of August 23 since the New Year Day, and violated Japan’s territorial water for 26 times during the time.
The Japanese media widely reported on August 22 President Biden’s decision to appoint former Chicago Mayor Rahm Israel Emanuel as the next ambassador to Japan. Known as the first White house Chief of Staff under the Obama-Biden Administration, senior officials of the Japanese government recognize Mr. Emanuel as a heavy weight politician, who is very close to the Biden Administration’s inner circle representing the value the U.S. places on the Japan-U.S. relationship.
Ministry of Environments, METI and others are taking the following new initiatives for decarbonization and sustainable environments, Yomiuri reported recently.
Ministry of Environment and METI jointly announced their joint policy to obligate retailers, convenience stores, restaurants, lodging places and cleaning shops to reduce, reuse or replace plastic items that those commercial entities provide their customers for free. This new regulation, which implements the new law “Plastic Resources Circulation Promotion Law” that passed the Diet in June this year, will become effective in April next year, and specifically regulates 12 plastic items (spoons, folks, knives, muddlers, straws, hair brushes, combs, razors, shower caps, tooth brushes, hangers and covers for clothes). Those who provide any of these plastic items must chose a countermeasure to reduce the consumption of those plastic items from the following five options:
(a) charge for the items
(b) give some incentive points to those customers who do not accept plastic items
(c) ask customers/guests if they wish to receive the plastic items
(e) replace with new material
Ministry of Environment will launch in the next fiscal year an initiative called “Green Life Point” program, which is intended to encourage people in Japan to switch their lifestyles toward more eco-friendly ones by giving them incentive points that can be spent for online shopping etc.
Following are some of the expected attitude that are entitled to the points:
Switch to energy saving equipment and devices
Switch to renewable energy sourced power supply
Consume locally raised/produced food
Buy food, which sell-by date is almost ending
Bring back the meal that you couldn’t complete
Contribute to fashion loss reduction
Choose sustainable fashion
Decline disposable plastic spoons etc.
Choose simple packaging
Use car sharing services
Use bicycle sharing services
Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, and METI will jointly explore a technology development program to generate hydrogen by using Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s High Temperature Gas-cooled Reactor(HTGR). Presently, hydrogen is generated out of methane and water based on high temperature reaction caused by fossil fuel burnt heat. HTGR will eliminate fossil fuel for sure. Thanks to HTGR’s much higher heat generation, the hydrogen generating process will no longer require methane, which generates CO2 through the heat reaction. This CO2 free hydrogen is expected to be a fuel for automobile as well as the direct replacement of coal for steel production process.
Please continue to have a safe and pleasant weekend!