A grab bag of stories about Japan’s battle against the novel coronavirus and the fallout from the pandemic:
- The health ministry is planning to move ahead with formal approval of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine on Sunday, when the first batch of doses is scheduled to arrive in the country, sources say, rather than Monday. This would mean vaccinations of 20,000 doctors and nurses could start Wednesday.
- Just over 21% of people in Japan are washing or sanitizing their hands appropriately to minimize the chances of infection, according to an online survey by a team drawn from Tokyo Medical University and other institutions. The team came up with the magic number of 11 hand washes a day as being ideal, based on five situations when people should scrub their mitts or use sanitizer.
- The imperial family aren’t doing much these days. A public birthday event for Emperor Naruhito at the Imperial Palace has been canceled for the second year in a row due to the pandemic. The emperor and empress are also considering meeting with survivors of the 3/11 disasters online rather than traveling to Tohoku for the 10th anniversary of the quake, tsunami and nuclear accident.
- An aquarium in Yamagata Prefecture has started a crowdfunding drive to raise funds to feed its world-record collection of jellyfish. A sharp decline in visitors due to the pandemic has left the aquarium tight on funds to purchase brine shrimp, a type of plankton, to feed its collection of some 60 species of jellyfish.
- Desperate to get people flying again, Japan Airlines is offering a service to cover the expenses of its international passengers for their tests, treatment and quarantine if they have become infected with COVID-19 while overseas. Travelers with tickets until June 30 are eligible to receive the free service.
Thursday’s (and last Thursday’s) new COVID-19 cases by prefecture (40 or over): Tokyo 434 (734), Kanagawa 178 (224), Saitama 172 (241), Osaka 141 (207), Chiba 127 (202), Fukuoka 110 (120), Hokkaido 92 (120), Aichi 80 (101), Hyogo 53 (111), Ibaraki 47 (64). Source: Japan COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker