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It goes without saying that the pandemic has made many people aware of their own mortality and the fragility of life.

During the pandemic, women in Japan, and all over the world, have suffered disproportionate job losses. Making up the bulk of employees within the service industry, women have been hit hard by infection control measures.

Coupled with the depression that accompanies the isolation of a staying home or a jobless lifestyle, it isn’t surprising to see an increase in the number of women taking their own lives amid the pandemic. NYT’s Makoto Rich reports on the backdrop to these tragedies.

Meanwhile, Japan’s health ministry announced this week that the overall number of deaths actually fell this past year. Data from earlier in the year suggests that it was spurred in large part by a drastic decline in respiratory illnesses, a likely side effect of mask wearing and social distancing. Another factor, albeit small, is likely the drop in traffic accidents as fewer people were on the roads, write Ben Dooley and Hikari Hida.

Nao, a blogger whose last name has been withheld to protect her privacy, at her home in Kanagawa Prefecture on Feb. 3. She has started writing a blog to chronicle her lifelong battles with depression and eating disorders, and has written candidly about her suicide attempt three years earlier. | NORIKO HAYASHI / THE NEW YORK TIMES
Nao, a blogger whose last name has been withheld to protect her privacy, at her home in Kanagawa Prefecture on Feb. 3. She has started writing a blog to chronicle her lifelong battles with depression and eating disorders, and has written candidly about her suicide attempt three years earlier. | NORIKO HAYASHI / THE NEW YORK TIMES

On the flipside, there is the national birth rate, which isn’t really doing that great. A story from the Nishinippon Shimbun reports that the lump-sum childbirth allowance of ¥420,000 granted to women belonging to the public health insurance program when they give birth might not be sufficient to cover all costs. The income decline in many households due to hard times amid the pandemic has brought the quandary to the surface.

In an effort to save unborn babies, Jikei Hospital in Kumamoto has become the first facility in Japan where women with unintended pregnancies can give birth anonymously. The jury is out, however, on whether this practice is legal in Japan. Without local or central government support, that could make bold approaches like this difficult to catch on.

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