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Yoshihide Suga elected as Japan’s first new prime minister in 8 years

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Former Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide poses for a portrait picture following his press conference at LDP (Liberal Democratic Party) Headquarter after to be elected as Party President on September 14, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan.

Nicolas Datiche | Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Yoshihide Suga was elected as Japan’s prime minister on Wednesday, becoming the country’s first new leader in nearly eight years and facing a raft of challenges including reviving an economy battered by the Covid-19 crisis.

Suga, who served as chief cabinet secretary to outgoing premier Shinzo Abe, was voted in by the lower house of parliament where his ruling Liberal Democratic Party holds a majority.

He pledged to carry on many of Abe’s programs, including his signature “Abenomics” economic strategy.

He faces numerous challenges, including tackling Covid-19 while reviving a battered economy and dealing with a rapidly aging society, in which nearly a third of the population is older than 65.

Abe, whose support was critical in ensuring Suga’s victory in the party election this week, entered the prime minister’s office on the last day of his tenure and thanked the people of Japan, vowing to support the incoming government as a regular member of parliament.

Abe added that the medicine he’s taking for his chronic illness is working that and he is recovering.

Earlier, in a video posted on Twitter, he looked back at his record.

“Sadly, we were not able to achieve some goals,” he said, in an apparent reference to his long-held desire to revise the pacifist constitution, something Suga does not seem eager to pursue. “However, we were able to take a shot at, and achieve, other divisive issues.”

His government re-interpreted the constitution to allow troops to fight overseas for the first time since World War II and also ended a ban on defending a friendly country under attack.

According to media reports, roughly half the cabinet will be made up of people from the Abe cabinet, and there are only two women. The average age, including Suga, is 60.

Among those retaining their jobs are key players such as Finance Minister Taro Aso, Minister of Foreign Affairs Toshimitsu Motegi and several others, including Olympics Minister Seiko Hashimoto and Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi.

Abe’s younger brother, Nobuo Kishi, is expected to be tapped for the defense portfolio, while current Defense Minister Taro Kono will take charge of administrative reform.

Yasutoshi Nishimura is likely to be reappointed as economy minister, while Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama, the son of a politician to whom Suga looked up as his mentor, is seen as retaining his post.

Katsunobu Kato, the health minister who became the face of Japan’s response to the coronavirus in the early days of the pandemic, will take over the key chief cabinet secretary post from Suga.

“It’s a ‘Continuity with a Capital C’ cabinet,” said Jesper Koll, senior adviser to asset manager WisdomTree Investments.

He said the real clues to whether and how Suga would push ahead with reforms would come from whether he introduces fresh blood from the private sector into advisory panels such as the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy.

“The ambition of Mr. Suga to speed up and reinvigorate the process (of reform) is absolutely clear, but the next layer of personnel will be interesting,” Koll said.

There is speculation that Suga might dissolve the lower house of parliament for a snap election, taking advantage of strong support, but Suga seems wary and has said handling the pandemic is his top priority.

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Nikola founder Trevor Milton forfeits $166 million in stock and gets to keep $3.1 billion under separation deal

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Stock sell-off accelerates and is expected to get worse before it gets better

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Here’s what it’s doing to tackle it

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A man with her protective face mask walks in Vellaces neighborhood after new restrictions came into force as Spain sees record daily coronavirus (Covid-19) cases, in Madrid, Spain on September 21, 2020. (Photo by Burak

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

LONDON — There can be no doubt now that Europe is facing the much-feared “second wave” of coronavirus cases, after a lull in new infections in summer when severe restrictions on public life helped stop the spread of the virus.

Now, as cases rise rapidly in the region, various European nations are taking action in an effort to stop the surge in infections and prevent a significant rise in fatalities.

To date, there have been almost 2.9 million confirmed cases of the virus in Europe and over 186,000 people have died, data from the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention shows.

Despite the risks, leaders in the region are reluctant to impose nationwide lockdowns again, given the economic and societal implications of such moves, and are now looking at more targeted, localized measures.

Here’s a snapshot of what Europe’s biggest economies are doing to stop the spread of the virus:

Spain

Spain has recorded 671,468 infections — the highest number in Europe, and 30,663 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. On Monday, it reported more than 30,000 new cases since Friday, Reuters reported.

Madrid has become a virus hotspot, with almost 800 new cases reported Monday. The surge has prompted the president of the city’s regional government to request help from the army to help battle the rise and parts of the capital have been put in lockdown, prompting protests.

On Monday, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said data showed that, in Madrid, “the infection rate is double the national level, the numbers of intensive care beds in use is three times the national level.” He signaled more stringent measures could be introduced in the city, saying it “demands its own plan,” El Pais reported

France

France has the second-highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Europe after Spain, with 496,974 infections to date and 31,346 deaths, JHU data notes. 

France reported 5,298 further cases on Monday from the previous day, a lower daily count due to the weekend data lag. Last Friday, France reported 13,215 new infections, its highest daily number since the start of the pandemic.

As a result of surging cases, the city of Lyon (France’s third-largest city) has introduced tighter restrictions, limiting public gatherings and prohibiting the sale and consumption of alcohol outdoors after 8pm, France 24 reported Monday. Visits to nursing home residents will also be restricted to two per week. Similar restrictions have already been imposed in other cities including Marseille and Bordeaux.

UK

The U.K. has also seen a dramatic rise in coronavirus cases over recent days, prompting the government to introduce localized lockdown measures in parts of northern England and more national restrictions. To date, the country has recorded just over 400,000 coronavirus cases and 41,877 deaths, according to the JHU.

On Monday, the government announced that bars and restaurants must close at 10 p.m. Groups of more than six people are also not allowed to meet.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will address the nation at 8 p.m. local time Tuesday evening and is expected to announce further measures. He is also said to be considering a “mini” lockdown of two weeks to try to act as a “circuit-breaker” in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.

The government’s chief medical and scientific advisors warned on Monday that, without action, the U.K. could see up to 50,000 new coronavirus cases per day by mid-October, which could lead to 200-plus deaths per day by November.

Germany

Germany was praised for its initial response to the first wave of the coronavirus crisis. To date, Germany has recorded over 275,000 cases, but has reported fewer than 10,000 deaths, JHU data shows, a far lower number of fatalities than its European counterparts.

Nonetheless, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) shows that cases are rising, particularly in the cities of Munich and Hamburg.

On Tuesday, a further 1,821 new infections were registered after a rise of 922 cases reported Monday. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has reportedly called for a crisis summit next week with regional governors, German media reported Monday.

Munich has tightened rules on face masks, which must now be worn in public, and contact restrictions. German Health Minister Jens Spahn has also said Germany will step up its testing regime as cases rise.

On Monday, the RKI called for “the entire population to be committed to infection control” by consistently observing rules of distance and hygiene, and advising that “crowds of people should be avoided if possible and celebrations should be limited to the closest circle of family and friends.”

Italy

Italy was the epicenter of Europe’s first outbreak in late winter, with the first outbreak in Europe appearing in the north of the country in February. To date, Italy has reported almost 300,000 cases and over 35,000 fatalities. 

Italy is also seeing a rise in new infections, but not at the rate of its neighbors. On Monday, for example, it reported 1,350 new cases in the last 24 hours, the health ministry said.

Italian politicians are reluctant to return to a severe lockdown that saw Italians banned from leaving their homes for all but the most essential reasons.

Instead, Italy appears to be looking to test people arriving from other European virus hotspots. Health Minister Roberto Speranza said in a Facebook post Monday that he had signed an order making it obligatory for people arriving in Italy “from Paris or other parts of France with significant circulation” of the coronavirus to be tested.

Speranza added that European data on Covid-19 “must not be underestimated,” and that while “Italy is better off than other countries … great prudence is still needed to avoid rendering the sacrifices made up to now in vain.”

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