Here are the latest updates from Japan and beyond on the coronavirus outbreak:

(New lantern installed at Tokyo’s Senso-ji temple)

As of 11:00 p.m., Saturday, April 18 (Japan time)

  • A leading global health scientist has said holding the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 would be “very unrealistic” without an effective vaccine for the new coronavirus, the BBC reported Friday on its website.
  • Los Angeles Angels two-way player Shohei Ohtani voiced his support on Friday for healthcare workers in his homeland who are battling the new coronavirus.
  • North Korean state media reported Saturday that all foreigners in the country who had been subject to measures aimed at preventing a local outbreak of the new coronavirus have been released from quarantine.
  • South Korean health authorities on Saturday reported 18 newly confirmed cases of novel coronavirus, marking the first time for the daily figure to fall below 20 in around two months.
  • Some experts say customs and social habits in Japan such as wearing face masks during seasonal flu outbreaks, bowing rather than handshaking, and removing shoes at home might play some role in hindering transmission of the new coronavirus, although to what extent is still unknown.
  • The whole of Japan entered its first weekend under a state of emergency Saturday, with tourist sites and entertainment districts largely deserted as people heed a government call to stay home to stop the coronavirus’ spread.
  • Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is desperate to strike the right note over his oft-criticized coronavirus response, hoping to stem both growing infections and faltering public support.
  • As the coronavirus pandemic affects nearly every part of people’s lives, President Donald Trump continues to face a crucial leadership test as he pushes to reopen the shuttered U.S. economy ahead of the November election.
  • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday that the World Health Organization, which faces criticism over its response to the coronavirus pandemic, is in need of reform but stressed that Japan has no plan to stop funding the U.N. agency.

As of 11:00 p.m., Friday, April 17 (Japan time)

  • Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged Friday to deliver 100,000 yen ($933) in cash to all citizens in Japan “as soon as possible” as his declaration of a nationwide state of emergency will curb people’s freedoms amid the new coronavirus outbreak. 
  • Michael Leitch, Japan’s captain at the last two Rugby World Cups, on Friday urged people to act responsibly and defeat the current coronavirus pandemic as one team.
  • Two-time defending Olympic men’s figure skating champion Yuzuru Hanyu joined other athletes on Friday in a social media public service campaign promoted by the Japanese Olympic Committee to battle the new coronavirus pandemic.
  • A more than 130-year-old lane in Osaka lined with cherry blossoms has been closed to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, but Kyodo News, permitted by authorities to use a drone around the area, on Friday captured images and footage of the flowers that attract nearly 700,000 visitors a week every spring.
  • About 60 percent of company employees in Tokyo and six other prefectures still commute to their offices despite the state of emergency declared for those areas to curb the coronavirus pandemic, a think tank survey showed Friday.
  • Japan began mandatory temperature testing on Friday of all passengers departing on domestic flights from Tokyo’s Haneda airport as part of measures to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus from the capital, which has recently seen a significant increase in new infections.
  • A new hotline for victims of domestic violence will open Monday amid growing concerns that cases of abuse will rise in the wake of stay-at-home requests due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, Japan’s minister for women’s empowerment Seiko Hashimoto said at a press conference Friday.
  • Finance Minister Taro Aso said Friday the government’s 100,000 yen ($930) per person handout should be ready by next month, stressing that a quick response is crucial in softening the economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Foreign trainees who lost their jobs due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic will be able to switch jobs and stay in Japan, the Immigration Services Agency said Friday.
  • China’s Wuhan, the original epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, revised the virus death toll for the hard-hit city up by 1,290 to 3,869 on Friday.
  • Japanese prefectural governors on Friday urged the central government to be firmer in asking the public not to travel during the upcoming Golden Week holidays after it expanded a state of emergency to all of the country in a bid to stem the growing spread of the new coronavirus.
  • Japan Post Co. began delivering reusable cloth masks in Tokyo on Friday as part of the government’s program to help contain the new coronavirus outbreak.
  • China’s economy marked its first quarterly contraction on record in the first three months of 2020, shrinking 6.8 percent from a year earlier, official data showed Friday, underscoring the damage done by the coronavirus pandemic to the nation dubbed the “world’s factory.”
  • U.S. President Donald Trump said the country is moving toward reopening the economy, unveiling new guidelines for easing limits imposed on the public to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Leaders from the Group of Seven industrialized nations on Thursday called for a “thorough” review and reform of the World Health Organization, the White House said, as the United States steps up criticism that the U.N. body has mishandled the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Prefectural governors largely welcomed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s decision Thursday to expand the state of emergency to the entire nation beyond Tokyo, Osaka and five other prefectures in the stepped-up fight against the coronavirus outbreak.

List of shops closed in Tokyo following emergency declaration

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Useful resources for foreign residents and visitors in Japan

  • NEW!  Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s “Tokyo Coronavirus Support Center for Foreign Residents (TOCOS)” multilingual hotline
    – Available in Simple Japanese, English, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Nepali, Indonesian, Tagalog, Thai, Portuguese, Spanish, French, Khmer, and Burmese, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays except national holidays. 
    0120-296-004 (toll free)

  • AMDA Medical Information Center’s “Multilingual Consultation Service Regarding COVID-19
    (April 10~May 20, 2020)
    – Available in English, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends and national holidays. Also available in Chinese, Korean, Tagalog, Thai, Spanish, Vietnamese and Portuguese on designated weekdays. Check schedule here.
    – Available in English and Chinese on weekdays only, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s COVID-19 info
  • Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s hotline
    – Available in English, Chinese, Korean and Japanese, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
    Available via fax for those with hearing impairments
  • Japan National Tourism Organization’s “Guide for when you are feeling ill”
    Multilingual clinic/hospital search available in English, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Japanese
  • JNTO’s “Japan Visitor Hotline
    – Available in English, Chinese, Korean and Japanese 24 hours a day
    (from overseas)
  • Japan’s health ministry hotline
    – Available in Japanese only, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • World Health Organization’s “Q&A on coronaviruses

(Cherry blossoms at the Japan Mint head office in Osaka)