Japan recorded fewer deaths in 2020 for the first time in 11 years

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The number of deaths in the country last year fell by 9,373, or 0.7%, from a year earlier to 1,384,544, down for the first time in 11 years, according to preliminary data from the Ministry of Health on Monday.

The smaller total may be linked to a sharp drop in seasonal influenza infections, as people have taken strict infection prevention measures, including wearing face masks and washing their hands, amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

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The annual number of deaths is increasing in the context of the country’s aging population.

Meanwhile, the preliminary number of births in 2020 fell 25,917, or 2.9%, to a record high of 872,683. A revised birth number, due to be released later, is expected to dip below the low record 865239 set in 2019.

The number of couples who married last year fell 78,069, or 12.7%, to 537,583, posting the second-largest drop since the end of World War II.

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“There appears to have been a step backwards” from the increase in the number of couples marrying seen in 2019, which also saw the start of the new Reiwa era in Japan, a ministry official said.

The number of couples who divorced in 2020 fell 16,314, or 7.7%, to 196,641, allaying fears that many couples may have divorced after spending a lot of time together at home in the middle of the pandemic.

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