Japan’s regions, companies emerge from coronavirus emergency while Tokyo restrictions remain

Large parts of Japan marked the first day out of a state of emergency on Friday while major cities remained under coronavirus restrictions. Above, people commute to work from Nagoya train station in Nagoya, Aichi prefecture on May 15, 2020. (Jiji Press/AFP)
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Updated 15 May 2020

Japan’s regions, companies emerge from coronavirus emergency while Tokyo restrictions remain

  • Urban centers of Tokyo and Osaka and six other prefectures will remain under restrictions
  • Nationwide, Japan has reported 16,203 cases of the coronavirus and 713 deaths

TOKYO: Large parts of Japan marked the first day out of a state of emergency on Friday while major cities remained under coronavirus restrictions and new testing suggested that contagion in Tokyo was wider than official figures.
Softbank Corp. and McDonald’s Japan said they would start returning to normal operations in 39 of Japan’s 47 prefectures that are now exempt from the emergency declaration. The 39 prefectures account for about 55 percent of Japan’s 126 million people.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lifted the state of emergency for these prefectures on Thursday but said the urban centers of Tokyo and Osaka and six other prefectures will remain under restrictions until there is convincing containment of the coronavirus. The emergency gives governors more authority to tell people to stay at home and to close schools and businesses, but there is no penalty for non-compliance.
“Even in areas where the emergency has been lifted, we would like to see people refrain from moving between prefectures as much as possible, at least during this month,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Friday. “We hope that people will be able to return to their daily lives in stages.”
Kyodo News reported that antibody tests of 500 Tokyo residents conducted by the health ministry indicated that 0.6 percent had been exposed to the virus. That would correlate to about 55,000 cases, based on the capital’s population of 9.2 million, more than 10 times the official figures for infections.
The health ministry plans to expand antibody testing to 10,000 people next month, Kyodo said.
Softbank said its mobile phone shops would return to normal operations in the 39 prefectures. McDonald’s, which had done take-out only, said it would resume in-store dining in those regions.
But it was unclear how soon the regional economies could snap back. Little movement is expected at least until the end of the month, said Gardner Robinson, an American who runs a hotel and restaurant in Nagano prefecture, where the state of emergency is over.
“A lot of local, prefectural and federal support is tied to staying closed until then,” Robinson said.
“But lifting the declaration will make it easier to get guests coming back for the green season,” he added, referring to the non-ski season in the winter sports destination.
For Tokyo, a decision on lifting or easing of restrictions won’t be made this month, Kyodo reported, citing a city government official. The Tokyo government wants to see new daily coronavirus cases at below 20 before lifting restrictions, Kyodo said.
New cases in Tokyo have been trending downward of late, and were at 30 on Thursday.
Nationwide, Japan has reported 16,203 cases of the coronavirus and 713 deaths, according to public broadcaster NHK. The figures are much lower than in most industrialized nations, but the pandemic cost Tokyo its chance to host the Summer Olympics this year.


Britain’s Iraq war crimes probe dismisses thousands of complaints

Updated 02 June 2020

Britain’s Iraq war crimes probe dismisses thousands of complaints

  • Former lawyer Phil Shiner and a team in Berlin drew on the accounts of more than 400 Iraqis who allegedly witnessed or experienced crimes

LONDON: An independent British investigator looking into allegations that UK soldiers committed war crimes in Iraq between 2003 and 2009 said Tuesday that all but one of the thousands of complaints have been dropped.
The Service Prosecuting Authority director Andrew Cayley told BBC radio that it was “quite possible” that none of the original allegations will lead to a prosecution.
Cayley did not provide details of the allegation in the last remaining case.
British combat troops fought alongside other coalition forces in an effort to quell an Islamic insurgency that followed the 2003 US invasion and subsequent fall and execution of dictator Saddam Hussein.
Former lawyer Phil Shiner and a team in Berlin drew on the accounts of more than 400 Iraqis who allegedly witnessed or experienced crimes ranging from rape and torture to mock executions and other atrocities.
A UK tribunal struck off Shiner after finding him guilty of misconduct and dishonesty in connection with the allegations in 2017.
Cayley told the BBC that it was likely that no action would be taken in a separate International Criminal Court (ICC) probe.
“My sense is these matters are coming to a conclusion,” he said.
A lawyer representing some of the soldiers accused by Shiner called for a public apology over the “vile war crime slurs.”
“At long last, this witch hunt is coming to an end,” lawyer Hilary Meredith said.
The UK Defense Ministry said in 2012 that it had paid £15.1 million ($19 million, 17 million euros) to more than 200 Iraqis who had accused British troops of illegal detention and torture.