The following is the latest list of selected news summaries by Kyodo News.


Drugmaker Merck unit seeks approval of 1st oral COVID drug in Japan

TOKYO - The Japanese arm of U.S. pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. said Friday it has applied for state approval for the production and sale of an oral COVID-19 drug, which if granted could be the first such pill to be used in Japan.

MSD K.K. said in a press release it is seeking the green light from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare under a fast-track process for the Merck-developed molnupiravir, which prevents the virus from entering or multiplying in the body.


Strong quakes jolt areas near Mt. Fuji, Osaka, no reports of damage

TOKYO - An earthquake of magnitude 4.8 struck near Mt. Fuji on Friday morning, followed by a bigger one in an area not so far away from Japan's western city of Osaka, but there were no reports of injuries or serious damage to infrastructure.

The first quake occurred at around 6:37 a.m., registering lower 5 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale of 7 in Otsuki in the eastern part of Yamanashi Prefecture and 4 in some areas near Tokyo, including Sagamihara and Atsugi, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.


Tokyo Olympics cost less than budgeted, need for extra money unlikely

TOKYO - The total cost of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics was at least 150 billion yen ($1.3 billion) less than expected as the games were mostly held without spectators, helping to cut labor costs and other outlays, officials with knowledge of the matter said Friday.

Cost reductions stemming from the absence of spectators due to the coronavirus pandemic more than compensated for losses on ticket sales, estimated at around 90 trillion yen, meaning there is unlikely to be an additional burden placed on taxpayers.


Japan firm NEC to introduce facial recognition vaccination check system

TOKYO - Japan's NEC Corp. will start the full-scale introduction of a vaccination certification system for COVID-19 based on facial recognition, eliminating any use of smartphone applications or documents, officials at the technology firm said Friday.

The company expects the system to be used at tourist sites and event venues and help alleviate congestion and reduce labor costs.


Japan to oblige security camera installation on trains

TOKYO - The Japanese government will oblige railway operators nationwide to install security cameras in newly built trains following a knife attack aboard a Tokyo train in October, the transport ministry said Friday.

Under safety measures compiled by the ministry, it will also call on railway firms to obtain passengers' understanding and cooperation over baggage inspections after a revised ordinance enabled operators to begin conducting security checks from July this year.


Japan's farm exports in 2021 to top 1 tril. yen for 1st time

TOKYO - The export value of Japanese agriculture, forestry and seafood products this year is certain to surpass 1 trillion yen ($8.8 billion) for the first time, the agricultural ministry said Friday.

Already achieving a 28% increase from last year, the value of exports between January and October totaled 973.4 billion yen ($86 million), bolstered by sales of beef and sake, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.


Boxing: Murata's unification bout with Golovkin postponed

TOKYO - The middleweight title unification bout between Japanese WBA titleholder Ryota Murata and IBF champion Gennady Golovkin has been postponed, Murata's Teiken Boxing Gym said Friday, as year-end boxing matches began to be scrubbed due to Japan's new coronavirus entry restrictions.

Japan began barring the entry of nonresident foreign nationals on Tuesday to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus's Omicron variant. The new ban ruled the Kazakhstani fighter out of the Dec. 29 bout at Saitama Super Arena near Tokyo.


Former IOC member Lamine Diack with ties to Tokyo 2020 case dies at 88

TOKYO - Lamine Diack, a former International Olympic Committee member who was tied to a French corruption case over Japan's bid to secure the 2020 Olympics for Tokyo, died Friday at the age of 88 at his home in Senegal, Reuters reported.

Diack was president of world athletics' governing body from 2001 to 2015 after serving as the previous president's proxy since 1999.

In 2014, French authorities investigated him on suspicion of bribery and money laundering in connection with the systematic doping in Russian athletics.