Category Archives: News

Coronavirus Update (26 March)

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Hello Kumamoto,
Here are some more updates:

●Additional cases in Kumamoto and Oita
One additional case of COVID-19 was identified in Kumamoto City last night, bringing the total number of cases in the prefecture to 8. The case is of a male in his 70s who began having a fever on Saturday. On the 24th, he underwent a CT scan and was referred to the health centre for a PCR test, which was positive. Authorities are currently investigating the man’s travel history and contacts. Press release:
http://www.city.kumamoto.jp/common/UploadFileDsp.aspx?c_id=5&id=26562&sub_id=176&flid=200374

27 March Update → 
More details have been released about the 8th confirmed COVID-19 case in Kumamoto we e-mailed about yesterday. 
The patient does not have a fixed address and reportedly frequented an 24-hour onsen facility in Higashi-ku, Kumamoto City known as “Peaceful You You You” (ピースフル優祐悠, https://www.peaceful.jp/). He had been staying at the onsen overnight since 7th March and continued using the facility even after he began showing symptoms on the 21st March last week. When not making trips outside during the day, he spent most of his time in the rest area of the onsen facility.
Since the rest area of the onsen is a closed space, Kumamoto City says there is a possibility of mass infection among people who used the facility, and is asking anyone who is worried they may have been exposed to contact their local health centre. 
After symptoms appeared on the 21st, the patient visited the Higashi Ward Office on the 23rd where he spoke to two city employees and visited a medical facility on the 24th to receive a prescription for high blood pressure medication. He tested positive for COVID-19 the next day.
PCR tests have been conducted on 30 staff members of the onsen, 4 city employees and 2 friends of the infected indvidual, and all the tests have come back negative.
The onsen facility is closed and today Kumamoto City public health officials are disinfecting the facility. It is set to re-open tomorrow. 
Here is the full article in Japanese: https://kumanichi.com/news/1405881/


An outbreak has occurred at a medical centre in Oita. 25 cases are now confirmed within Oita Prefecture alone, 24 of which are connected with the medical centre. You can read a statement by the Governor of Oita translated into English, as well as find the links to case summaries on this page: https://www.pref.oita.jp/soshiki/10140/coronavirus2019-english.html

●School re-openings
Yesterday the Kumamoto Prefectural Board of Education held a press conference, in which they indicated their intention to re-open schools both for classes and club activities in the new school year in April, while taking measures to prevent the spread of the virus at school by shortening entrance/opening ceremonies. Kumamoto Prefecture also issued a request to all the other municipal boards of education, asking them to follow suit and open schools depending on the situation in their local areas.

●New measures by MOFA
The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has raised all international travel to a “Level 2” advisory, asking Japanese nationals to avoid non-essential travel abroad (https://www.anzen.mofa.go.jp/covid19/info0325.html)

As we mentioned in an e-mail last week, MOFA imposed immigration restrictions on arrivals from Europe. MOFA is now also strengthening immigration restrictions on arrivals from the United States. As of today (26 March), the United States has been added to the list of countries from which people entering Japan must self-isolate for two weeks after arrival. 
Arrivals from the the list of countries in this document, which now includes the United States, must have a place to stay for 14 days after entering Japan and secure, in advance, a method of transportation from the airport other than public transport (e.g., personal or rental vehicle).

●Situation in Tokyo
As you have probably already heard, daily numbers of cases have been steadily increasing in the nation’s capital throughout the month of March. Yesterday (25 March) saw the highest number of confirmed infections since records began, with 41 confirmed cases in one day, more than double the number of cases from the day before. The route of transmission is unknown for 68 of the 134 total cases confirmed so far in March.

At a press conference yesterday, the Governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike emphasised that Tokyo is at a critical juncture in preventing an “overshoot”, or a large and uncontrollable surge in cases. Koike requested that Tokyoites work from home if possible, and refrain from unnecessary outings in the evening and at the coming weekend. These are the same measures that were put in place in Hokkaido in late February. Tokyo now overtakes Hokkaido as having the highest number of confirmed cases, with 212 cases at the time of this update.

Earlier this week, Koike signalled that a lockdown of Tokyo is possible, but that measure has not yet been taken. 

Read more:http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/13244625 – Tokyo governor urges residents to stay at home at weekend
http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/13240195 – Koike warns of ‘lockdown’ option if infections surge in Tokyo

And back to Kumamoto again (Mayor Onishi on hanami)
At a press conference yesterday Mayor Onishi of Kumamoto City urged residents of Kumamoto to avoid eating and drinking in public parks, such as near Kumamoto Castle or Ezuko Park, during the upcoming hanami season for the time being. The city will also not be re-opening Miyukizaka (sakura-lined pathway leading up to the castle) for special viewing to the public during this year’s hanami season.
(https://kumanichi.com/news/1404240/)

As unfortunate as it is, we would like Kumamoto JETs to also be aware of this request and re-consider their plans for enjoying this hanami season accordingly.

That’s all for now. – Lily & Bilal

Coronavirus Update (19 March)

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Hi Kumamoto,

We’re back with some updates:

New cases in Kyushu
On Tuesday evening, Miyazaki Prefecture confirmed two new cases of COVID-19. One of those cases is a male in his 40s who resides in Takachiho Town, which is next door to Yamato Town in Kumamoto (case summary). 
In Fukuoka, a foreign university student developed symptoms after returning from Finland last week and tested positive (read more here).

There have been no additional cases reported in Kumamoto Prefecture.
One additional case was announced Kumamoto City, bringing the total number to 7. 

The case is of a woman in her 20s living in Higashi-ku. After returning from a trip to Spain with her husband Saturday last week, she reportedly began to have symptoms such as a fever, sore throat and fatigue. Yesterday (19 March), which was the fourth day after symptoms appeared, her husband consulted the local health centre. She received a test the same day, which came back positive for COVID-19 a few hours later. 

Apart from one occasion on which the husband briefly visited his workplace and immediately returned home, the couple have reportedly been staying at home together since their arrival from Spain. Health officials are currently investigating any potential contacts and are asking the public to continue to practice cough etiquette and hand washing.
Here is the full press release from Kumamoto City: http://www.city.kumamoto.jp/common/UploadFileDsp.aspx?c_id=5&id=26562&sub_id=159&flid=199709

In other Kyushu news, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare agreed to remove the classification of Oita Prefecture as a “transmission cluster” as only one case has been confirmed. (1 – article, 2 – revised map)

●Entry restrictions to Japan for Europeans
Japan is suspending visa-free travel for holders of passports from all European countries, meaning nationals of these countries will not be able to enter Japan as a temporary visitor without a visa. This includes visitors from countries which some JETs in Kumamoto call home (the UK, Ireland, France and Sweden). The restrictions apply to all European countries, in addition to Iran and Egypt. 

For the time being, foreigners (including nationals of European countries) with a valid status of residence in Japan (e.g., JETs) can still re-enter the country as long as they have not spent any time in the past 14-days in a country subject to entry restrictions. 
The new restrictions will come into effect on Saturday, 21 March at midnight. (https://news.tv-asahi.co.jp/news_politics/articles/000179379.html)

●A message from us
We recognise the situation with COVID-19 is a delicate and constantly changing situation. It is good to keep up to date on the most current information as events unfold in unprecedented ways. We are aware that a number of countries have been encouraging those travelling for business or leisure etc. overseas to return home, and that airlines have been reducing, though not completely eliminating, the numbers of flights. Travel advisories can sometimes mean that insurance for travellers is no longer valid if they depart after the warnings are issued. However, please note that JET Programme participants are not considered short-term travellers or holidaymakers, as they are on a one-year employment contract, and your enrolment in Japanese national health service is valid until the end of your contract and the JET accident insurance is valid for up to one month after that.

We understand this can all be unsettling for those of us living overseas away from our families. Nevertheless, over the past few weeks, we have been encouraged by the strength and resilience of the JET community. 

Bilal & Lily

Coronavirus Update (17 March)

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Hello Kumamoto,

It’s been a little while since our last update concerning COVID-19. No major changes have been made so far to the stance of the national or prefectural governments here in Japan, so as PAs there isn’t so much that we have been able to say to JETs over the last couple of weeks.

However, it cannot go without mentioning that coronavirus, which since last week is being described as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation, has provoked a severe economic and social crisis in many of the home countries of JET Programme participants here in Kumamoto, including but not limited to the U.S., the UK, Canada, Australia and France. 

As a result, much recent media coverage has been given to the situation in these countries. We are sure everyone has been following it closely, whether through the news or from family and friends back home. We are sending this e-mail today in the hopes we can provide some accurate and accessible information about the current situation in Japan and Kyushu, as well as share a few announcements that we think would be relevant for JETs.

●Summary of current coronavirus situation in Japan
Kumamoto Prefecture has not announced any new confimed cases since the sixth case was confirmed on 5 March as of our last e-mail. However, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare announced that it has categorised 15 locations across the country as “clusters” where community spread of coronavirus has been confirmed. 10 of these clusters have 10 or more confirmed cases.

The map of clusters published by the ministry is available here (Japanese only; for exact numbers you can cross-reference with the map here which is available in English).

The largest cluster is in Osaka, where the virus spread to over 50 attendees of concert houses in mid-February. The 6th case from Kumamoto announced earlier this month is connected to this cluster. 

Here in Kyushu, one such cluster has been declared in Oita, where the virus may have been spread by a symptomatic individual at a dining establishment and/or a sports gym. However, at present only one case has been confirmed by testing in Oita (source). In addition, a university student in Saga tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday last week. 23 contacts of that person were tested, all of whom were negative for the virus (source). The following day (14 March) the first confirmed case was announced in Nagasaki. The male in his 30s is asymptomatic but requested a test after learning a person he was in close contact with while in Osaka was infected (source). 

At the time of this update, Hokkaido has the most cases at 152, followed by Aichi with 123, Osaka with 110, and Tokyo with 100. Hyogo has 81, Kanagawa has 58 and Chiba 35. 

School re-openings
Schools have re-opened in a small number of municipalities in the country. Here in Kyushu, Saga Prefecture was planning to re-open prefectural schools until a case was confirmed there last week. The national government is currently planning to release a set of guidelines outlining the conditions that should be in place before schools are re-opened. (See NHK news article here, in English: 
https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20200317_32/)
If there are any changes in Kumamoto Prefecture, we will let everyone know.

●Law gives PM ability to declare state of emergency
On Friday last week the National Diet added coronavirus to a list of infectious diseases for which the prime minister can declare a state of emergency (緊急事態宣言, kinkyū jitai sengen). At a press conference, the prime minister said that in his view, early measures such as cancelling large public events and closing schools have, for the time being, been effective at preventing an explosive spread in Japan, and the progress of COVID-19 has been held back to a certain extent. As a result, the decision to declare a state of emergency has not yet been made.

If a state of emergency is declared, it would, for a specified amount of time, give prefectural governors various emergency powers, including (1) the power to ask citizens to refrain from unnecessary outings, (2) the power to order restrictions on operation of entertainment facilities such as cinemas, (3) the power to temporarily expropriate property such as land or buildings for use as medical facilities, and (4) the power to procure necessary supplies for the public use such as medicine and food. (See this NHK article summarising the contents of Abe’s press conference on Saturday evening and this one discussing what could happen if a state of emergency is declared.)

That’s all we have for now. We’ll notify you if there are any further updates. 

Sincerely,
Bilal Khan & Lily McDermott

Coronavirus Update

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Hello Kumamoto,

One additional confirmed case of COVID-19 in Kumamoto was announced on 5 March, bringing the total number to 6. You can read the full briefing on the prefectural website here (Japanese only), but we’ll summarise the main details here in English.

The sixth case is of a woman in her 40s living in the jurisdiction of the Ariake Health Center (Arao/Tamana Area) and is employed at an elderly care facility.
The woman is asymptomatic. She is believed to have contracted the virus during a visit to Osaka, where she met friends from Shikoku and Tokyo. Two of the woman’s friends were later confirmed to have COVID-19 upon returning to Ehime and Kochi prefectures. Authorities are now administering PCR tests to all of the woman’s family members, coworkers, and elderly care facility residents.

After than, further down in this e-mail, is some more information about travelling and some more links to find up-to-date information in English. Let’s start with travel.

On travel: Over the last few weeks we have received many inquiries not only from JETs, but also very concerned COs worried about domestic travel of their JETs outside of Kumamoto. As we have said before, the decision about whether or not to travel at this time is your own, but we strongly recommend you make any decision only after consulting closely with your CO. With regard to travel to areas of Japan with a large number of confirmed cases, we implore you to take your COs concerns seriously and consider the risks carefully when making a decision. We also ask you to exercise the same degree of caution if your travel involves transit through areas with large numbers of cases even if your final destination has no reported cases.

With respect to travel overseas, a number of countries have announced immigration restrictions on people coming from or who have travelled recently to Japan. Depending on the country, the measures vary, and include complete entry bans as well as enforced quarantine upon entry. The most up-to-date information is summarised on this page maintained by MOFA: https://www.anzen.mofa.go.jp/covid19/pdfhistory_world.html
The page is available only in Japanese, but the content is the kind that Google translates fairly well. For your convenience, here’s the Google Translate link: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=&sl=ja&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.anzen.mofa.go.jp%2Fcovid19%2Fpdfhistory_world.html

How to get up-to-date information on coronavirus news: As we try our best to keep informed about the ongoing situation, here is an updated list of resources for getting up-to-date and reliable information.We recommend the following news pages for news in Japan:NHK World News (in English): https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/tags/82/
JAG Investment Management Co., Ltd. maintains a map of confirmed cases in Japan by prefecture (available in English): https://jagjapan.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/55c22ee976bc42338cb454765a6edf6b
Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) maintains a page with information targeted towards foreigners travelling in Japan, including a variety of helpful resources as well as a list of temporary attractions closures: https://www.japan.travel/en/news/coronavirus/

The JNTO also run a 24-hour hotline (50-3816-2787) which provides support and advice in English for visitors in Japan including on COVID-19.

There are also official government webpages that you can refer to.Ministry of Health Labour and Welfare maintains a page with information in English: https://www.mhlw.go.jp/stf/seisakunitsuite/bunya/newpage_00032.html
Kumamoto Prefecture also has an official coronavirus information page though it is Japanese only: https://www.pref.kumamoto.jp/kiji_30386.html
Kumamoto City official coronavirus information page (Japanese only):
http://www.city.kumamoto.jp/hpkiji/pub/detail.aspx?c_id=5&id=26562

You can find information and guidance from WHO regarding the current outbreak here:  https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public

World Map of infections by UN: https://experience.arcgis.com/experience/685d0ace521648f8a5beeeee1b9125cd
United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control page – https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/novel-coronavirus-china

Where to find information on your country’s stance on coronavirus in Japan:
United States: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories/japan-travel-advisory.html
United Kingdom:  https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/japan
Canada: EN – https://travel.gc.ca/destinations/japan,  FR – https://voyage.gc.ca/destinations/japon
Australia: https://www.smartraveller.gov.au/destinations/asia/japan
New Zealand: https://www.safetravel.govt.nz/japan
Ireland: https://www.dfa.ie/travel/travel-advice/a-z-list-of-countries/japan/
South Africa: Check for updates on http://www.dirco.gov.za/, Contact embassy for consular assistance: http://www.sajapan.org/  
Singapore: https://www.mfa.gov.sg/countries-regions/j/japan/travel-page
Jamaica: Check for updates on https://mfaft.gov.jm/jm2/, Contact embassy for consular assistance: http://jamaicaembassy.jp/
Trinidad and Tobago: Contact embassy for consular assisstance: http://www.embassyin.jp/trinidad-and-tobago/ https://foreign.gov.tt/services/registration-nationals-abroad/
France: https://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/fr/conseils-aux-voyageurs/conseils-par-pays-destination/japon/
Sweden: https://www.swedenabroad.se/sv/om-utlandet-f%C3%B6r-svenska-medborgare/japan/reseinformation/ambassadens-reseinformation/aktuella-h%C3%A4ndelser/

That’s all for now. 

Sincerely,
Bilal Khan & Lily McDermott

Coronavirus Update (26 February)

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The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) issued a travel advisory concerning Daegu, South Korea (see map here). 

The advisory is as follows:

Level 2, Avoid non-essential travel
Japanese nationals are advised to avoid non-essential travel to the area, and to stay alert to the situation and take appropriate safety measures should they decide to travel.

This is the same level of travel advisory currently in place for Mainland China (excluding Hubei and Zhejiang provinces, which are Level 3). 

Furthermore, it appears that Japan is also moving to ban entry to foreigners who have visited Daegu. See the following Kyodo News article: https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2020/02/2efb5c502f15-urgent-japan-to-ban-entry-by-foreigners-who-have-visited-daegu-s-korea.html

Here in Kumamoto, one additional person has been confirmed to have Covid-19 since yesterday. This brings the total number of confirmed patients in the prefecture to 5. 

As always, if you need any assistance from the PAs, have questions or concerns, or have symptoms, please get in touch.

On the spread of coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2)

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Hello Kumamoto,

As you are probably aware, China and the wider East Asia region is currently dealing with an outbreak of a new respiratory disease caused by a strain of coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2.

Excluding cases on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, Japan has the third highest number of confirmed cases after China and Singapore. A summary of the cases of coronavirus in Japan to date can be found on Wikipedia here. As of 17 Februrary, there are no confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in Kyushu; however, Kumamoto has still been affected. For instance, the grand opening of the cruise terminal “Kumamon Port Yatsushiro,” originally planned for 1 April, has been cancelled.

The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) issues travel advisories for Japanese nationals which can be viewed on their website here (Japanese only). Currently, the following advisories are in effect for mainland China:

  • Hubei Province – Level 3, Do not travel
  • Zhejiang Province – Level 3, Do not travel
  • Other regions of mainland China – Level 2, Avoid non-essential travel

As you can see, the travel ban has been extended to Zhejiang as well as Hubei. Even if your home country has not issued equivalent travel warnings, we advise you to pay close attention to MOFA’s stance. As JET Programme participants are not Japanese citizens, you may be denied re-entry to Japan if you travel to affected areas. The MOFA website, linked above, states:

  • 我が国は,2月13日,湖北省に加え,浙江省における滞在歴がある外国人等を入国禁止措置の対象としました。
    (As of 13 February, an entry ban to Japan has been extended to foreign nationals who have stayed in Zhejiang province, in addition to Hubei province.)

If you travel overseas at this time, you will be required to fill out health declaration questionnaires on whether you have travelled to Hubei or Zhejiang provinces upon your return. 

Here are some additional resources for information on coronavirus:

Message from AJET to New JETs

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The national  and local block 11 AJET representative have made a video to welcome all new Kumamoto JETs to Japan. If you have a chance, please take a minute to watch it as they explain in detail what AJET is and how it can help you during your time on JET.

To watch the video, please click here!

Earthquake Updates (Day 2)

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(E-mail at 6:45 AM)
Good morning Kumamoto,

At 1:25AM, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake hit Kumamoto, centered around Kumamoto City Higashi-ku and Mashiki. There has been damage reported in Kumamoto City, Mashiki, Uto, Yatsushiro, and Minamiaso areas. The tsunami warning that accompanied the first earthquake has now passed. Similar to the earthquake on Thursday evening, aftershocks have continued throughout the early morning hours.

Thank you to all the JETs to responded to us or their tantoshas about their safety in the middle of the night. It made our job a lot easier to make sure that everyone was taken care of.
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