Nurses Drafted to Help Covid Fight: This Week in Osaka December 4th to December 11th 2020

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Each week, here at Osaka.com, we bring you a selection of some of the top stories about Osaka making the local and national news here in Japan. Sometimes it’s serious, sometimes it’s funny, but it’s always direct to you, from Osaka.

Here’s a look at some of the stories hitting the headlines in Osaka this week.

Nurses Drafted in to Ease Pressure on Hospitals

A patient being treated for severe Covid-19 infection

While the UK this week vaccinated the first of its citizens against the Covid-19 virus, in Osaka the battle to contain infections continues.

After raising the prefectural alert level from yellow to red last Friday, Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura asked for more help this week.

He turned to Japan’s Self Defense Force (SDF) to provide extra support.

The SDF will send teams of nurses into Osaka to ease pressure on understaffed hospitals across the prefecture. Osaka now sits on the highest alert level for the first time since the national state of emergency ended in May. Virus cases continue to increase by the hundreds each day.

With the SDF being under the control of the central government, Prime Minister Suga confirmed this week that help is on the way.

In a statement this week he announced that SDF nurses will be dispatched to both Osaka and the city of Asahikawa in Hokkaido. Hokkaido sits alongside Osaka as the two biggest current viral epicenters outside Tokyo.

Nurses Deployed to New Medical Center

The arrival of the nurses allows for the accelerated opening of a new Covid treatment facility in Sumiyoshi Ward. The new facility provides an additional 30 beds equipped with respirators, with the potential to add 30 more in the near future. With staff secured, the facility will open next week.

Daily infection rates in Osaka have consistently surpassed 300 every day for the past week. This has led to a spike in serious cases of Covid-19 complications.

The number of those in a serious condition in hospital across Osaka Prefecture sat at 161 as of Monday. This is a record high since the first Covid-19 case was recorded in Osaka back in January.

Nuclear Court Ruling Could Set Precedent

A Nuclear Power Plant, similar to that under investigation in Fukui Prefecture

The Osaka District Court made national headlines this week. The court handed down judgement on a case with wide-ranging national implications.

The court revoked the safety certificates for 2 nuclear reactors operated by the Osaka-based Kansai Electric Power Company. The ruling represents a victory both for anti-nuclear campaigners and those demanding greater transparency from the industry.

The reactors in question are at the Oi Power Plant in Fukui Prefecture. After the Fukushima disaster of 2011, safety regulations for nuclear power plants tightened. However, the plaintiffs in this case, numbering more than 130 people, claimed safety standards remained lax. Their assertions were vindicated in court this week as the judge ruled that both reactors did not meet expected nuclear safety standards.

The ruling said that the regulatory authority issued safety certificates without fully considering the implications of a high-magnitude earthquake. Given that the reactors passed a government inspection on the basis of these safety certifications, the ruling potentially calls safety at all nuclear plants across Japan into question.

Kansai Electric said the judgement was “extremely regrettable and absolutely unacceptable”. So, an appeal of some kind seems likely, though exactly how this would happen remains unclear. The government says it will respond appropriately after considering the ruling more closely.

And Finally…

Post offices are an integral part of every community in Japan

When we go to the post office, it’s usually to post a letter, send a parcel or buy some stamps. We don’t typically associate it with “massive fraud to the tune of millions of dollars”.

And yet, that’s exactly what was discovered at one post office in Osaka Prefecture this week.

A former post office manager in Sakai City, just outside Osaka, apparently embezzled 130 million yen. He did so with an elaborate scheme using postage stamps.

When companies send large volumes of mail all at once, it typically doesn’t make much sense to spend so much time attaching stamps to each envelope individually. Instead, the stamps are purchased, giving the sender proof of postage, and then disposed of.

This is where Taisuke Kawasaki’s scheme came into play. Rather than dispose of the stamps, he set them aside and later resold them. Each of these bulk mail stamps costs 1,000 yen. From autumn 2017 to summer 2018, Kawasaki resold more than 130,000 of these stamps. After selling them to third parties for below market value, he found himself better off to the tune of about 120 million yen.

Unfortunately, as with all such money-making schemes, it seems Kawasaki got a little too greedy and too ambitious. A routine audit earlier this year turned up the fraud. Kawasaki was fired, and will now face criminal charges.

Hopefully he’ll still be able to receive letters in prison.

That’s all for now but be sure to check back again same time next week for another round of this week in Osaka!

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