Weekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 35, 2020

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Changes in Japan’s Office Real Estate Market. View the NHK video report (in English) here.

Update on Japan

  • On Monday 25 August, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government said it confirmed 95 new cases of coronavirus infections, bringing the total number of cases reported in the Japanese capital to 19,428. It was the first time since 8 July that the daily tally of infections has been below 100.Officials are calling on residents to take all precautions as the situation in Tokyo continues to be extremely serious. They are asking people to refrain from traveling outside Tokyo or going to their hometowns, and to avoid group dinners.After the dip on Monday, 182 new infections were confirmed on Tuesday, but the figure remains below 200 for the second day in a row.
  • Japan plans to ease its COVID-19 entry restrictions on foreign nationals with resident visas starting next month, public broadcaster NHK reported, after an outcry over the emotional and economic hardship that the measures are inflicting.Re-entry will be permitted for visa holders, including permanent residents and exchange students, on condition that they undergo coronavirus testing and quarantine for 14 days, the same policy that applies to Japanese citizens re-entering the country, NHK reported on Friday.A consular official with Japan’s foreign ministry said there was “no decision yet” on easing border restrictions. Japan’s travel curbs to battle the pandemic are among the world’s strictest, effectively banning entry with few exceptions of not only tourists but long-term visa holders from more than 140 countries.

    That means many permanent and other long-term residents who have made Japan their home remain stuck outside the country, unable to carry on with their livelihoods and suffering enormous financial pain as bills pile up.

    Others face agonizing decisions such as whether to leave Japan to attend a funeral or care for a sick family member, for fear they will not be allowed back. Western business lobbies have slammed the government’s policy, saying it is out of step with measures in other major economies and will harm investment.

    NHK said the government had received “many opinions” calling on it to relax the restrictions for the resumption of social and economic activities. About 2.6 million foreigners have residence status, and the government plans to expand testing at airports to accommodate the expected increase in traffic after the easing of the restrictions, NHK said.

  • Last week’s heat wave in Japan continued to have its impact and sent thousands to the hospital with heat-related illnesses. Medical workers worried that the similarity of symptoms to COVID-19 may place extra pressure on a health care system already creaking under the strain of the coronavirus pandemic.The number of people showing signs of heatstroke or heat exhaustion has sharply increased recently. Temperatures soared to 41.1 C in Hamamatsu in central Japan on Monday, tying with the country’s highest-ever temperature, marked in Kumagaya near Tokyo in 2018.”There are times when we can’t immediately tell apart those suffering from heat-related illness and COVID-19 when a patient is feeling unwell with high fever because it is a symptom they have in common,” said Yasufumi Miyake, head of the advanced emergency medical service center at Teikyo University Hospital.

    Miyake said treatment has to take account of the possibilities of both COVID-19 and heat-related conditions when staff cannot rule out the possibility of coronavirus infection. “There is a risk that the medical system will collapse” if this situation continues, he added.

    Amid fears that mask-wearing to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus could itself cause heatstroke or heat exhaustion, 12,804 people were taken to hospital across Japan between 10 and 16 August for heat-related conditions, up from 6,664 people the previous week, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency.

    In central Tokyo, the death toll from heatstroke or heat exhaustion in August stood at 79 as of Tuesday last week, compared with zero through July, with 73 of them, or about 90%, aged 60 or older, according to a tally by the Tokyo Medical Examiner’s Office.

    While scorching heat has been a problem in Japan in recent years amid global warming, experts have suggested that the longer-than-usual rainy season this year with particularly overcast weather made it harder for people to physically adapt to the sudden rise in temperatures this month. During the rainy season, many regions in Japan lacked sunlight in July and people could not gradually get used to hotter weather, they said.

  • More than 2 million people have used Japan’s travel subsidy campaign since it kicked off on 22 July in a bid to revive a domestic tourism industry hit hard by the novel coronavirus pandemic, the country’s top government spokesperson said Monday.Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said there have been 10 reported cases of infections at hotels and other lodging facilities registered with the Go To travel campaign.Under the program, the government covers part of the cost of domestic tourist trips. However, the campaign was thrown into disarray before it was launched when the government made the decision to exclude travel to and from Tokyo and by residents of the capital in response to a spike in infections.

    The exact number of people using the campaign was not released Monday and the government tally does not take into account people taking more than one trip.

    Despite concerns that the campaign could lead to a rise in infections, Suga said the government will continue the program, while taking into account the views of health experts as and when needed to prevent the spread of the virus.

    “There are 9 million people working in the tourism industry and we can say that the industry is dying,” he told a press conference.

    According to the government, 16,703, or only about half of the eligible lodging operators, have registered with the program as of Thursday, with some of them shying away from registration due to the complex process to claim benefits and the problems of informing travel associations and other parties of the number of guests they have received.

    With many small- and medium-sized lodging operators opting not to register, the Japan Tourism Agency has extended its deadline, originally set for Friday.

    Under the 1.35 trillion yen (€10.7 billion) tourism push, the government will eventually subsidize up to half of a person’s travel expenses, including accommodation and transport fees. Initially, it provides discounts worth 35% of total costs.

    The remaining 15% will be covered by coupons to be issued after September for food, shopping and other travel activities offered at destinations.

  • With more people working from home amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a growing number of companies have been looking to cut costs and weather the tough economy by moving into smaller offices. This has led to some profound changes in Japan’s office real estate market, Tomura Keiko of NHK World reports. The problem is, relocating in Japan can be crushingly expensive, even if you’re downsizing.When a company in Japan relocates, they have traditionally paid to have their old office remodeled and restored to its original, unfurnished state. Carpets are replaced, walls are removed, lighting fixtures are torn down, and the painters turn the wall a spotless white. In central Tokyo, the average cost for this work is nearly €85,000.Landlords typically prefer to rent their rooms as empty shells because it means they won’t be responsible for repairs. Even the interior walls belong to the tenant. But this standard may be starting to change as the coronavirus pandemic reshapes the office rental market and puts pressure on the owners. Some innovators have started to offer less expensive solutions for the moving companies. A NHK video report on the topic can be seen here.
  • Japan’s government says it will host an international online conference on climate change next month to keep up with the issue during the coronavirus pandemic.Countries were supposed to discuss the issue at the United Nations COP26 climate change conference in November. But the event has been postponed by one year.The Japanese government proposed that a ministerial-level meeting be held online, as fears are rising over the delay in environmental actions. Participants are expected to discuss how to balance efforts to address the issue against activities to revive the economy damaged by the pandemic.

    The online meeting will be held on 3 September, with delegates from about 60 countries and territories taking part.

    Panel discussions will also be held with representatives from businesses and college students. In conclusion, participants are expected to issue a joint statement.

    Japan’s Environment Minister Koizumi Shinjiro will chair the conference. He told reporters that although the pandemic has created a different situation in each country, they should not forget about climate change. He added that he wants to see the participants share what they know about the pandemic and increase momentum to address the issue.

  • Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo has returned to work after undergoing medical checks at a Tokyo hospital. Abe broke a record on Monday, becoming the longest-serving Japanese leader in terms of 2,799 consecutive days in office.On the same day, Abe returned to a university hospital in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward which he also visited the previous week. Abe said he received the results of a test he took last week and also underwent additional tests. He told reporters that he will continue to do his best in his work and take all necessary measures to manage his physical condition.But there are concerns within the main ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the opposition camp over Abe’s health. There is growing pressure on Abe to take the initiative in the fight against the coronavirus and in terms of boosting the economy while managing his health.
  • The coronavirus outbreak is prompting Japanese companies to further digitalize their operations. The trend has spread to the financial sector. Banks have lagged behind in digitalization because of the custom of using personal seals on documents.Earlier this month, some branches of Resona Bank started using tablet computers that can read customers’ cash cards to confirm their identity. The bank says the terminals have multiple applications, including setting up time deposits and private pension plans. The bank says it hopes that reducing the amount of paperwork and the time for checking seals will boost efficiency and allow it to downsize branches.A major non-life insurance company, Sompo Japan, has drastically reviewed its internal procedures. It will allow a total of 160 procedures to be carried out online, including bill payment and recruitment.
  • A lantern containing the Olympic flame for the postponed Tokyo Games will be displayed at the Japan Olympic Museum.The flame contained in the lantern was brought to Japan from Greece in March. It arrived before the torch relay in Japan was cancelled due to the decision to put off the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games for one year. The organizing committee has been caring for the flame since then.The Japanese Olympic Committee and the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee jointly announced on Monday that the lantern bearing the flame will be put on public view at the Olympic Museum in Tokyo, starting 1 September. They say they want as many people as possible to come and see the flame, assuring that full-fledged anti-infection measures will be in place.

    Visitors need to make bookings in advance to visit the museum. Up to 60 visitors will be allowed into the museum every 30 minutes. The flame will be displayed till 1 November. A plan is in the works to circulate the Olympic flame across Japan for public viewing.

Decrease of guests at tourist accommodations according to Statistics Netherlands.

Update on the Netherlands

  • 3,588 new COVID-19 infections were reported over the past week. That is 425 fewer confirmed cases reported than the week before that. Hospital admissions (current or previous) due to COVID-19 were reported during the past week for 84 patients. That is 34 more than last week.32 deaths of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patients were reported, 16 more than the week before. See the news item Slight decrease in number of new COVID-19 infections reported.Over 140,000 people have been tested in the GGD test lanes in the past week, 38,000 people more compared to the week before. At the national level, the percentage of positive tests decreased slightly to 2.5%. The reproduction number is close to 1.

    Not all of the confirmed cases, hospital admissions or deaths that were reported during the past week also occurred within the last week. Some patients are reported later. For this reason, the figures are often supplemented with previous reports that had not yet been included. Since it is likely that not all people who have COVID-19 will get tested, the actual numbers in the Netherlands are probably higher than the numbers stated here.

  • The first case of COVID-19 re-infection has been confirmed in the Netherlands, virologist Marion Koopmans told NOS on Monday. It would be an elderly patient with a weakened immune system. Someone in Belgium would also have been infected for the second time.Koopmans emphasized that the prevention of re-infection with the virus was in line with expectations. “Respiratory infections can strike twice, or more often. We know that you are not protected for life if you have had the infection and that is what we expect with COVID-19”, Koopmans said.One can speak of an official re-infection if the RNA, a genetic code unique to each infection, differs from that of a previous infection. This prevents the virus particles from being left over from a previous infection, the virologist explains.

    There is not yet a clear explanation as to how the patients could become infected again. The amount of antibodies produced by a patient may possibly have played a role in the re-infection. For example, donor blood from corona patients has shown that people with more severe complaints often built up more antibodies than people with mild complaints. In addition, it has not yet been established how long the antibodies that have been built up will protect against a subsequent infection, said Koopmans.

    Koopmans added that these re-infections are no reason for panic. Certainly not in the Dutch case, where the patient concerned had a weakened immune system. “We have to investigate these cases carefully and see if it occurs more often,” she added.

    On Monday, researchers in Hong Kong confirmed for the first time a second infection with the corona virus. Although a possible re-infection was previously reported in several places in the world, it has now been scientifically proven for the first time.

    According to the researchers, this is an “apparently young and healthy patient” who was diagnosed with a second infection 4.5 months after the first case. The discovery seems to indicate that immunity of some patients after corona infection only lasts a few months.

  • Over 400 more people lost their lives in the Netherlands last week compared to the weeks before, which was during the hottest week since temperature measurements started, Statistics Netherlands reported on Friday. The recorded coronavirus related deaths were low, so the excess mortality “is thus almost entirely attributable to the higher temperatures”, the stats office said.The Netherlands was in a national heatwave from 5 to 16 August, lasting a total of 13 days. On nine of those days, temperatures topped 30 degrees. For the first time ever, the Netherlands saw eight consecutive days with temps above 30. Last week was also the hottest week ever measured in the Netherlands, with an average maximum temperature of 33.1 degrees Celsius.The higher number of deaths during the heatwave follows 13 weeks of relatively low mortality. Before that, death rate was much higher than usual due to the coronavirus pandemic. Between weeks 11 an 19 of this year, an estimated 9 thousand more people died than would have if there had been no pandemic. Last week the GGD health services reported 15 Covid-19 related deaths.

    Last year had two heatwaves and both came with an increased number of deaths. During the first heatwave, from 22 to 27 July, almost 400 more people died than in an average summer week. During the Netherlands’ longest and most intense heatwave in a century in July 2006, an estimated 1 thousand more people died. Though in a heatwave in 2018, there were hardly any extra deaths. The stats office thinks this had to do with higher mortality during a flu epidemic earlier that year.

    Deaths during a heatwave mainly occur in people aged 80 and older, the stats office said. In this past heatwave, about 300 people aged 80 and older died.

  • Last week, the Municipal Health Services (GGDs) administered 140,432 corona tests, an increase of about 40% from previous weeks. The percentage of people tested who received a positive test result fell by 1% from 3.5% to 2.5%.Since the testing policy was expanded in June, more than a million Dutch people have now been tested for the corona virus. A total of 1,018,023 tests were conducted.- 27 July – 2 August: 101,905 tests, of which 2,588 were positive (2.5%)
    – 3 – 9 August: 98,978 tests, of which 3,466 positive (3.5%)
    – 10 – 16 August: 102,487 tests, of which 4,036 positive (3.6%)
    – 17 – 23 August: 140,432 tests, of which + – 3,552 positive (2.5%)

    Due to the crowds at the test streets, the Ministry of Health and the GGDs emphasized again on Monday that corona tests must only be taken by people who suffer from symptoms of the virus.

    According to the ministry, the test streets are under pressure due to the increasing interest in corona tests. Where necessary, it is examined how the expanded testing policy can be used more effectively. For example, it is being investigated how effective it is to have travelers returning from orange or red areas tested for the corona virus immediately.

  • On Sunday, 148 fines were handed out in  Amsterdam to people not wearing a face mask in areas where this is mandatory. About a thousand warnings were also issued. In one case, the person refused to listen and the police arrested them, a spokesperson for Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema said to AT5.Face masks have been mandatory in parts of Amsterdam and Rotterdam since 5 August. In Amsterdam, people have to wear a mask in the Red Light District, Kalverstraat, Nieuwendijk, Albert Cuypstraat, and Plein ’40-’45. Both Amsterdam and Rotterdam announced that this rule will be more strictly enforced starting the past weekend.The mayor’s spokesperson said that a fine is always the last step in behavioral change. “Indicating walking directions, addressing people and handing out masks works better. We hope that fining remains the exception and that a warning will suffice,” the spokesperson said.

    The fine for not wearing a mask in Amsterdam is 95 euros. It used to be 395 euros, because the Public Prosecution Service had not given it a specific so-called fact code, so the municipality had to use the general fact code for violating social distancing and other coronavirus related rules. But during a committee meeting on Thursday, Halsema announced that a fact code had been created specifically for the mask obligation, NU.nl reports.

    “That is good news. It was complicated to operate with a fine that we actually found disproportionate to the mask obligation we impose,” Halsema said.

  • In the second quarter of 2020, tourist accommodations such as hotels, houses, campsites received an average of 72% fewer guests than a year earlier, according to figures from the Statistics Netherlands (CBS). Especially the hotels in Amsterdam were hit hard, because more than 90% of the tourists stayed away.Due to global travel restrictions, foreign tourists in particular have stayed away in recent months. For example, hardly any guests came from outside Europe (decreases between 96 and 98%). Most foreign tourists who still visited our country came from Germany (74% decrease) and Belgium (87% decrease). The decline was the least among Dutch guests, at 60%.Most foreign guests stay in hotels, which is why this type of accommodation has been hit harder than, for example, camping areas or bungalow parks, explains Maarten Bloem of the CBS.

    “And Amsterdam is the big magnet for foreign tourists. So hotels in that city have been hit hardest by the corona crisis, ” said Bloem. In the second quarter, the capital welcomed 92% fewer guests than a year earlier.

    The result is that many hotels have run into financial difficulties. In recent years, less than 5 hotels usually went bankrupt in the second quarter, compared to 19 in the second quarter of 2020 

    Manager Roberto Payer of Waldorf Astoria hotel in Amsterdam, where 70 of the 90 rooms are empty, told RTL Z that his hotel will survive the crisis, because Waldorf Astoria is a chain that can handle the hardships. Yet here too job losses are inevitable. According to Payer, 50 of the 180 jobs at Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam will disappear. Across Amsterdam, 10,000 jobs will be lost in the hotel sector, Payer estimates.

    CBS expects the recovery to continue in the third quarter. Because many Dutch people choose a holiday in their own country this summer due to the corona virus . As a result, the tourist accommodations will continue to improve in July, August and September.

    This applies especially to campsites and bungalow parks. It is expected that the hotels in the big cities, which mainly rely on foreign tourists, will be continue to have a hard time.

  • It will take five years for the Dutch unemployment rate to recover from the long-term damage to the economy due to the corona crisis, even if the virus were to be completely under control by next year. This was reported by the government’s macro-economic forecasting agency CPB in a press release on Tuesday.”Economic growth forecasts have had to be revised down because of the coronavirus crisis. In both the short and the medium term, the decline in jobs, investments and productivity will have a negative impact on forecast GDP growth,” the CPB said.And this also means it will take longer to recover from the damage to the economy, if the deficit can be worked away at all, the agency said. The warning comes as ministers finalise next year’s spending plans, which are due to be published on the third Tuesday in September.

    The CPB expects the jobless total to peak at 6.5% next year, and then drop gradually to around 4.3%. However, if a vaccine takes longer to develop, or if there is a second wave of infections, the damage to the labour market will be deeper and more long-lasting, the researchers said.

    However, Groningen University economics professor Peter Verhoef is optimistic and told local paper Dagblad van het Noorden that the Netherlands is currently in a ‘unique’ economic crisis and is well positioned to recover compared with other countries.

    “Consumer confidence is lower due to fear of the virus. People don’t want to be out and about too much. That is one aspect of this crisis. People also anticipate losing their jobs and are therefore careful. They save more money. And a third cause is that part of the expenditure cannot be used, for example in the catering industry, holidays, events, much is not possible,” he said.

    “We have never experienced that in recent times. That also means that a standard statement does not work. Very strange things are happening in the economy. The event industry is at a standstill, the catering industry is hit hard, tourism is having a hard time as well. But at the same time, Drenthe has never had so many tourists. Certain sectors are actually doing very well. Webshops, the entire digital world, do-it-yourself businesses. Webcams cannot be towed, but also office chairs for the home. The housing market continues to do well. ”

    The retail sector is struggling. “But specialty stores are doing well. People do have money to spend and want quality. They may buy less expensive suits because they don’t have to go to work, but they’ll want a new sweater for at home. ”

Update on Dujat & Members

  • We are pleased to announce that our member The Concertgebouworkest has started their concerts again. Please take a look at their website for more information.
  • If your company has any news or updates to share in next week’s newsletter, let us know via e-mail to vangastel@dujat.nl.

Kind regards,

Jinn van Gastel
Project Manager at Dujat

DUJAT (Dutch and Japanese Trade Federation)

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Sources: NOSNu.nlAdRIVMTelegraafJapanTodayKyodo NewsNHKJapanTimes