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Japan’s unemployment rate climbs for 3rd straight month in May

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The unemployment rate in Japan increased in May from a month earlier, as the coronavirus pandemic led to firms laying off staff as businesses stalled during the government’s state of emergency period declared over the pandemic, the government said in a report on Tuesday.

According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Japan’s unemployment rate climbed to 2.9 percent in the recording period, with the figure coming on the heels of a 2.6-percent increase logged a month earlier and marking the third consecutive month that the jobless rate here has increased.

The government declaring a state of emergency over the outbreak of the coronavirus in April saw businesses shutter operations and the public requested to refrain from making nonessential trips outdoors in a bid to prevent the further spread of the virus.

During the emergency period through May 25, the job market suffered commensurate with business suspensions and projections for restructuring measures needed following companies’ heavy losses.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare also said Tuesday that the job availability ratio in Japan stood at 1.20 in May, dropping from a ratio of 1.32 booked in April, marking the the steepest month-to-month fall since January 1974, when a record 0.20 point drop was logged following the global oil crisis.

The ratio equates to there being 120 job openings for every 100 people seeking work, with the availability rate deteriorating to its lowest level since July 2015, the ministry’s data showed.

“The employment situation is severe, with the number of job offers continuing to fall sharply and the number of job seekers increasing at the same time,” Japanese labor minister Katsunobu Kato told a press briefing on the matter.

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Foreign

Japan, United States discuss jump in Coronavirus cases at United States military bases

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Japan and the United States are sharing information about Coronavirus (COVID-19) infections at United States military bases after an outbreak provoked ire in the southernmost prefecture of Okinawa, a top Japanese official said on Monday.

Of the 62 individuals Okinawa confirmed had tested positive from Tuesday to Sunday, 39 were at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, 22 at Camp Hansen and one at Camp Kinser.

Later on Monday, TV Asahi said 32 more cases were confirmed at Futenma.

“We will cooperate appropriately on this matter,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a regular news briefing.

“Japan and the United States are sharing information about the activity history of the infected military individuals.”

Okinawa hosts the bulk of United States military forces in Japan, whose alliance with Washington is central to its security.

But many Okinawans associate the bases with problems from crime to accidents, and want the Marines to reduce their presence there or leave altogether.

At the weekend, Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki said it was “extremely regrettable” that a large number of infections had occurred in a short time, adding that Okinawans were “shocked” by the news.

“I can’t help but have strong doubts about the United States military’s measures to prevent infections,” he said, adding that there are reports of personnel leaving base for beach parties and visits to night life districts around Independence Day on July 4.

On its Facebook page for Pacific bases, the Marine Corps said it was prohibiting off-base activity for all installations across Okinawa, except essential needs such as medical appointments approved by a commanding officer.

“We are trying to limit as much contact (with local people) as we can, as we look to contact tracing of infected personnel,” a United States military spokesman said.

Excluding the bases, Okinawa’s infections stand at 148, with seven deaths, the prefecture’s website shows.

Nationwide, Japan has recorded nearly 22,000 cases and 1,000 deaths.

Edited By: Emmanuel Okara/Muhammad Suleiman Tola (NAN)

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Vietnam to resume some flights to China, Japan, S. Korea and Taiwan

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Vietnam’s Prime Minister has given the go-ahead to launch a small number of international flights each week to China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, state media reported on Monday.

“In a government meeting on Friday, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc asked the Foreign Ministry and the relevant embassies to arrange the recommencement of flights to Guangzhou, Tokyo, Seoul and Taiwan,’’ reports said.

According to him, just one or two flights will be permitted each week and passengers coming to Vietnam will still need to undergo mandatory two-week quarantine.

“Priority will be given to Vietnamese nationals, investors and business experts.

“Mid-July has been suggested as a possible restart date,’’ the prime minister noted.

Kidong Park, the World Health Organisation’s representative to Vietnam, has praised the country’s response to the coronavirus crisis.

The nation’s first two cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in late January.

At the beginning of February, Vietnam Airlines ceased all flights to China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, after a spike in new infections in March, all international flights were grounded.

No deaths have been reported, confirmed virus numbers have placed at 372, and no community transmissions of the virus have been reported in the last three months.

Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye/Ali Baba-Inuwa (NAN)

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Foreign

Japan, NASA agree to cooperate on ISS and moon missions

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William Gerstenmaier, NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, and Takashki Hamazaki, Vice President and Director-General for Human Space Flight Technology Directorate at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), signed a joint statement on space exploration Jan. 24, 2018, in Japan.(JAXA Photo)Cooperation

Japan and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) agreed on Friday to collaborate on the International Space Station (ISS) and lunar surface exploration, working to eventually send humans and robots to the moon.

NASA administrator, Jim Bridenstine, and Japan’s Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Koichi Hagiuda signed a joint exploration declaration of intent during their virtual meeting.

According to the declaration, the two sides plan to cooperate regarding the ISS and NASA’s Artemis programme – its manned missions to the moon.

“Today’s signing of this declaration of intent builds on the long history of successful cooperation between the United States and Japan in space,’’ Bridenstine said.

“We appreciate Japan’s strong support for Artemis and look forward to extending the robust partnership that we have enjoyed on the International Space Station to cis-lunar space, the lunar surface and beyond,’’ he said.

“This is a big step towards the first Japanese person’s landing on the moon,’’ Hagiuda said.

Through Artemis, NASA will send people to the moon by 2024 and establish sustainable lunar surface exploration with its commercial and international partners by 2028, it said.

AIB

Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)

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Economy

Japan to develop offshore wind farms at 30 sites in 10 years, Nikkei says

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Energy

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan will craft new rules and support infrastructure in a drive that aims to build offshore wind farms at 30 sites during the next decade, the Nikkei business daily said on Thursday.

Industry Minister, Hiroshi Kajiyama, is expected to announce policy measures soon to target the goal, the paper said, without identifying sources.

The new policy aims for three or four projects each year with total generation capacity of one gigawatt (GW), from the financial year starting in April 2021 until fiscal 2030/2031, for an accumulated total of 10 GW.

To speed the expansion, the Ministry of Land Infrastructure Transport and Tourism (MLIT) plans to build storage facilities nationwide for the parts required for construction, as well as reinforce some ports.

The Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry (METI) plans to revise power grid rules to scrap restrictions on greener power suppliers, the paper added.

Japan now allows large traditional utilities that control its transmission grids, to limit renewable energy supplies, such as those from solar and wind farms, if necessary, to ensure grid stability, a measure that limits renewable energy expansion.

A METI official, handling renewable energy, declined to comment on the report.

A MLIT official said the ministry had already started work on some ports to benefit offshore wind farms, but declined comment on the rest of the report.

Each plant usually takes five to 10 years to build.

Japan’s offshore wind power market is set to grow after a law, the Offshore Wind Promotion Act, enforced last year to assist development.

AIB

Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)

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Science & Technology

Japan supercomputer suggests changes to travel, work amid airborne virus threat

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Supercomputer-driven models simulated in Japan suggested that operating commuter trains with windows open and limiting the number of passengers may help reduce the risk of coronavirus infections, as scientists warn of airborne spread of the virus.

In an open letter published on Monday, 239 scientists in 32 countries outlined evidence that they say shows floating virus particles can infect people who breathe them in.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) acknowledged ‘evidence emerging’ of airborne transmission, but said it was not definitive.

Even if the coronavirus is airborne, questions remain about how many infections occur through that route.

How concentrated the virus is in the air may also decide contagion risks, said Kyoto University professor Yuki Furuse.

In the open letter, scientists urged improvements to ventilation and the avoidance of crowded, enclosed environments, recommendations that Shin-ichi Tanabe, one of the co-authors of the letter, says Japan broadly adopted months ago.

“In Japan, the committee for COVID-19 countermeasures insisted on the 3Cs at an early stage,” said Tanabe, a professor at Waseda University in Tokyo, referring to Japan’s public campaign to avoid ‘Closed spaces, Crowded places and Close-contact settings.’ “This is ahead of the world.”

As Japan tamed the pandemic, with more than 19,000 confirmed cases and 977 deaths so far, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura credited its success to the 3Cs and its cluster-tracing strategy.

The recent study by Japanese research giant Riken using the world’s fastest supercomputer, the Fugaku, to simulate how the virus travels in the air in various environments advised several ways to lower infection risks in public settings.

Its lead researcher, Makoto Tsubokura, said that opening windows on commuter trains can increase the ventilation by two to three times, lowering the concentration of ambient microbes.

But to achieve adequate ventilation, there needs to be spaces between passengers, the simulations showed, representing a drastic change from Japan’s notoriously packed commuter trains.

Other findings advised the installation of partitions in offices and classrooms, while in hospitals, beds should be surrounded by curtains that touch the ceiling.

Edited By: Emmanuel Okara/Ali Baba-Inuwa (NAN)

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General news

Masks, disinfectant, social distancing: Japan responds to disaster amid coronavirus

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Boxes of surgical masks, bottles of disinfectant and a sign saying “Please wear a mask” mark the entrance to a public gym in Yatsushiro city, a shelter for residents fleeing devastating floods in southwestern Japan this week.

Elsewhere in the gym, cardboard partitions separate the 233 evacuees’ sleeping areas and another sign instructs them to check their temperature each morning, then sterilise the thermometers.

The measures show what a thorny issue it is for Japan to deal with natural disasters in the time of coronavirus.

Japanese authorities have been warning local officials for months to include coronavirus measures in their disaster preparations.

Residents have been urged to seek shelter with friends or relatives if possible to avoid overcrowding evacuation centres.

But coronavirus contagion was the last thing on the mind of 78-year-old retiree Aiko Ishimura when neighbours knocked on her door on Monday to tell her about evacuation orders.

Ishimura, who lives alone, had planned to shelter at home.

“So we just came as we were. We were in such a rush to come here, we didn’t bring anything,” Ishimura, who fled with neighbours, told Reuters.

“I wasn’t worried at all about coronavirus, not at all.”

“We don’t have many cases here in the first place. We don’t really do the whole mask-wearing thing,” she added, although she said she keeps a mask in her pocket.

Kumomoto prefecture, where Yatsushiro is located, has had only 49 of Japan’s more than 20,000 coronavirus cases, according to public broadcaster NHK.

That compares with close to 7,000 in Tokyo, where cases are on the rise again among its 14 million residents.

Misa Matsuda, a 48-year-old nurse, accustomed to the annual floods in the region, had also intended to remain at home.

But she was stunned early Monday when she opened her door and found the river flowing just a few feet from her house.

“I thought, there’s no way the water would come up here to our house, where it’s a bit of a hill,” she said.

Extreme weather disasters have become increasingly common in Japan recently. Last year, Typhoon Hagibis killed nearly 100 people, a year after more than 200 died in western Japan in the worst flooding in decades.

Matsuda said she wasn’t too concerned about coronavirus because basic steps were being taken, but did worry residents would congregate to chat, creating just the sort of crowded conditions authorities say increase infection risk.

City official Takanobu Ono said the evacuation centre was limited to 300 people in spite  of a capacity for 500. But he said the priority for evacuees was escaping with their lives.

“Some of have just been saved by the skin of their teeth,” he said.

“The reality is that coronavirus is less of a concern for them … So we’re taking the measures we have to, but haven’t been so strict about it.”

About 60 people have died or were feared dead from floods and landslides triggered by torrential rains that have pounded the southwestern island of Kyushu, including Kumamoto prefecture, since Saturday.

Extreme rain warnings were issued for parts of central Japan on Wednesday.

Disaster experts said persuading people to evacuate early and find alternative shelters was vital, but agreed that convincing people to plan ahead was often tough.

“We kept saying, ‘Check your hazard map,’” said Masako Yoneda of the Japan Academic Network for Disaster Reduction, which issued an urgent warning on the topic in May.

“But still, there are people who don’t check.”

Edited By: Emmanuel Okara/Ali Baba-Inuwa (NAN)

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General news

Japan’s southern island rain kills 16

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Torrential rains that hit Japan’s southern island of Kyushu killed 16 people, with 13 going missing and 17 showing no vital signs.

The public broadcaster NHK said on Sunday, as the weather agency expects heavy rain to resume by evening.

Saturday’s unprecedented rains in the Kumamoto prefecture of central Kyushu unleashed floods and landslides.

Television broadcast images of overturned cars, people shoveling mud from their homes and the military rescuing stranded residents in boats.

“We had no electricity and no running water,” one rescued woman told the broadcaster. “It was tough.”

The Japan Meteorological Agency urged people to stay vigilant, as more rains are predicted.

“From this evening on, extremely heavy rains with thunder are expected in southern as well as northern Kyushu,” an agency official told Reuters.

“The rainfall so far has already loosened the ground. There is a high chance of landslides occurring, even without much additional rain.”

Edited By: Emmanuel Okara/Ismail Abdulaziz (NAN)

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General news

Buhari thanks ‘honest’ Nigerian student in Japan, Ikenna Nweke

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President Muhammadu Buhari has commended a Nigerian doctorate student in University of Tsukuba, Japan, Mr Ikenna Nweke, who returned a missing wallet with huge sums of money to the police, and also turned down offer of a percentage by the authorities.

The president made the commendation in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, in Abuja on Saturday.

President Buhari saluted Nweke for projecting the values of honesty, integrity and contentment that should be the hallmark of a people.

According to him, the good virtues and propriety are the hallmark of every culture in Nigeria, while crimes and criminalities are exceptions.

The president believed Nweke’s behaviour, coming at a period that the country needed a positive spotlight and close-up on its real values, ”clearly signposts what should hold the nation together, inspired by solid foundations laid by most families, religious bodies and communities for success in life.”

He wished Nweke all the best in his studies and work as a teaching assistant in same university.

He urged all Nigerians, home and abroad, to keep celebrating the age-old, irreplaceable attributes of honesty and decorum, and shun the microwaved, get-rich-quick tendencies that bring individual and collective shame.

Edited By: Wale Ojetimi (NAN)

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Foreign

 Japan asks United States to extradite 2 men accused of aiding Ghosn’s escape

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Japan has asked the United States to extradite two Americans accused of helping ousted Nissan Motor Chairman, Carlos Ghosn, to jump bail and flee the country in late December for Lebanon, local media reported on Friday.

Kyodo News reported that “Tokyo’s request is based on a bilateral extradition treaty as prosecutors have asked Washington to hand over former Green Beret Michael Taylor and his son Peter Taylor.”

The two were arrested in Massachusetts in May over alleged role in the escape of Ghosn, who was awaiting trial on financial misconduct charges in Japan.

Kyodo News quoted the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors’ Office as saying “we express our appreciation to United States authorities for their cooperation.

“We will do our best in cooperating with them so that handover procedures will swiftly move ahead.”

The Justice Minister, Masako Mori, told newsmen that her ministry would also work with Washington for prompt extradition of the Taylors.

She said “the United States authorities confirmed Tokyo’s request in documents submitted to a federal court in Massachusetts.”

Ghosn, the former head of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Motors alliance, has been charged with breach of trust and falsifying financial documents to understate his income.

He, however, denied the allegations, saying he fled “injustice and persecution” in Japan.

Lebanon has no extradition treaty with Japan.

Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye/Hadiza Mohammed-Aliyu (NAN)

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