December 15, Wednesday, 2021 (1:30 p.m.) Newsline

1. A trial involving the widow of a former Finance Ministry official who killed himself after being forced to falsify documents has closed after the government suddenly changed course and agreed to pay damages.
2. NHK had learned that a Japanese health ministry panel will meet as early as December 24 to discuss whether to approve the use of a COVID-19 oral drug developed by US pharmaceutical firm Merck. The panel is expected to approve the use of molnupiravir at the session. The ministry is likely to authorize it as Japan’s first oral medicine for COVID-19 within several days of the panel’s approval.
3. Gasoline prices in Japan have fallen for the fifth straight week. Concerns that the Omicron variant may delay economic recovery briefly drove down crude futures prices. The Oil Information Center said on Wednesday that the average retail price of regular gasoline was 165.9 yen or about a dollar and 46 cents, per liter as of Monday. That is down 2.1 yen from the previous week. But officials at the Center say crude prices could rise again, as people are starting to lower their guard against the Omicron variant, and due to increased seasonal demand for oil.