Weekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 15, 2020

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Update on Japan

  • The total number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Japan stood at 4,257 on the morning of Wednesday 8 April, health officials said, with a total of 93 people who lost their lives as a result of the disease.
  • Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a state of emergency on Tuesday 7 April, to fight new coronavirus infections in the capital Tokyo and six other prefectures – accounting for about 44% of Japan’s population – for a period of about one month. The six other prefectures are Chiba, Kanagawa, Saitama, Osaka, Hyogo and Fukuoka.The state of emergency gives governors the authority to call on people to stay at home and businesses to close. With no penalties for ignoring the requests in most cases, enforcement will rely more on peer pressure and respect for authority.Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said the city was in talks with the central government to decide what types of facilities it would ask to close or curtail business hours, while reiterating there would be no restrictions on buying groceries and medicine.
  • Japan’s consumer spending on travel and entertainment slumped, government data showed on Tuesday 7 April. Household spending slid 0.3% in February from a year earlier, marking the fifth straight month of declines but a smaller drop than a median market forecast for a 3.9% decline and the 3.9% fall in January.Spending on toilet paper jumped 47% in February from a year earlier, while that on domestic package tours slumped 37%. A separate central bank survey for the March quarter showed Japanese households were the gloomiest on the economic outlook they had been since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, underscoring the toll the outbreak was taking on the world’s third-largest economy.Supply chain disruptions, travel bans and social distancing policies triggered by the pandemic have hit Japan’s economy, which is already on the brink of recession, piling pressure on policymakers to take stronger steps to ease the pain.
  • Abe said on Tuesday 7 April that the government’s stimulus package to combat the pandemic would be among the world’s biggest and include direct fiscal spending of $358 billion. It was the first time Abe unveiled the size of direct spending of his package, which he said would total 108 trillion yen – equal to 20% of economic output.The 39-trillion-yen ($358 billion) in spending would be more than double what Japan spent dealing with the hit to growth from the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. While the stimulus could ease the immediate damage from the pandemic, lawmakers are already calling for even bigger spending to prevent bankruptcies and job losses.
  • Spring graduation ceremonies in Japan have been cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, but students at Business BreakThrough University in Tokyo (BBT) were able to attend theirs remotely by controlling avatar robots while logged on at home.The robots, dubbed “Newme” by developer ANA Holdings, were dressed in graduation caps and gowns for the ceremony at the Business Breakthrough University in Tokyo.One by one, the robots motored toward the podium to receive their diplomas. School staff clapped and said “congratulations!” as University President Kenichi Ohmae placed the diplomas on a rack mounted on the robot’s midsection.

    “I think this is truly a novel experience to receive a certificate in a public area while I am in a private space,” Kazuki Tamura said via his computer avatar when receiving his master’s degree diploma. The university hopes its approach can be adopted by other schools looking to avoid mass gatherings.

  • The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has begun moving people who have tested positive for the new coronavirus but have only mild or no symptoms to a hotel.The government rented the budget hotel, Toyoko Inn Tokyo-eki Shin-ohashi Mae, to temporarily accommodate such patients, and is paying for their stay. The first group of 11 patients arrived at the hotel on Tuesday 7 April. About 100 are expected to stay there.The patients are to be discharged if they test negative for the virus twice in a row, 24 hours apart. They are expected to stay at the hotel for about one week on average.

Update on the Netherlands

  • The total number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Netherlands stood at 19,580 on the morning of Wednesday 8 April, health officials said, with a total of 2,101 people who lost their lives as a result of the disease.
  • There was sharp rise in the number of reported deaths as a result of coronavirus in the Netherlands on Tuesday, as the death toll topped 2,000. A number of 234 more people have died from the virus, taking the total to 2,101, the national public health institute RIVM announced on Tuesday 7 April in a daily update.
  • The Netherlands is looking into introducing two apps as a key part of controlling the spread of coronavirus, one of which would alert people via bluetooth if they had been in contact with someone who had coronavirus, and a second which would keep potential patients in touch with doctors, are currently being further researched.This was announced by prime minister Mark Rutte and health minister Hugo de Jonge at a press conference on Tuesday 7 April.

    The apps will form part of the more intensive testing strategy which is currently being introduced in the Netherlands. They would, in effect, take over some of the work of local health boards which do not have the capacity to trace all potential coronavirus contacts.According to NOS Tech Editor Joost Schellevis, there are quite some privacy-friendly ways that such an app can work. “For example, by storing the information only locally and not in one large database.” Each phone transmits a unique number via Bluetooth. The Singapore-Style Coronavirus App that is currently being tested in Germany only stores on your own phone which numbers – and therefore people – have been in your area.”If you appear to be infected, you can indicate this in the app and then a message will be sent to those numbers,” says Schellevis. “But there is no server where all that location data is collected centrally.”

  • At the press conference, both Rutte and De Jonge said that despite promising figures in terms of hospital and intensive care admissions, it is still too early to say whether the ‘intelligent lockdown’ in the Netherlands will be gradually eased from April 28, when the current deadline expires.
  • The Dutch government is expanding the company aid packages in order to support more businesses that are suffering big losses due to the coronavirus crisis, and has decided to also include taxi drivers, dentists, physiotherapists, tattoo artists and suppliers of food and beverages for (cultural) events in the list of self-employed professionals who are eligible for support.The expanded measures include additional financing through the Guarantee Business Financing scheme (Garantie Ondernemingsfinanciering, GO) and specific credit options for start-ups.In addition, the subsidies for the extended scheme for small and medium-sized enterprises (De verruimde borgstelling midden- en kleinbedrijf, BMKB) will be reduced, and more companies will be financially supported with a one-time gift as a contribution to the consequences of measures taken by the government to combat the corona virus.

    Efforts are being made to launch this specific extension on 15 April 2020, as was announced by Minister Eric Wiebes, State Secretary Mona Keijzer of Economic Affairs and Climate (EZK) and State Secretary Hans Vijlbrief (Finance) in a letter to the Dutch parliament on Tuesday 7 April. 

  • One fifth of the Dutch economy will come to a standstill this and next month due to the corona virus, ING economists say in an estimate published on Tuesday 7 April. They expect the economy to shrink by 6 to 8 percent this year compared to last year.In this expectation, economists assume that most large sectors will be back to pre-crisis levels by the end of this year. They also emphasize that it is still too early to provide a precise estimate of the impact of the corona virus on the Dutch economy. In their baseline scenario, they believe that measures to control the spread of the virus will be relaxed from the end of April.Social distancing however still continues, and anyone who can work from home will continue to work from home,” said the economists. “In the Netherlands, schools reopen in mid-May and restaurants and cafes remain closed until 1 June and will then slowly open under strict rules. The return to ‘normal’ is therefore gradual.”The big blow will probably come in the second quarter of the year, from the beginning of April to the end of June. Companies will invest less and households will consume less. “For the whole of 2020, GDP is estimated to be about 6 to 8 percent lower on average than in 2019, but within about two years, the economy may return to pre-Corona levels.”
  • Several stores in the Netherlands, such as Van Haren (shoes), Bever (sportswear), and Suitsupply, are slowly opening their doors again. “We see that shops that do not belong to the so-called food or basic essentials are slowly opening up again,” said a spokesman for interest group INRetail.According to him, both smaller shops and chains stores are opening the doors again. “Often not from all locations and in any case with due observance of all security measures.” They used the period that they were closed to adapt the interior to the guidelines that the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) concerning responsible shopping, reports Van Haren, among others“The time has also been used to train personnel,” says the industry association. Suitsupply confirms that. “We were one of the first to close, with the exception of our Amsterdam office. There, the staff practiced tailoring suits, without getting close to the customers.According to director Fokke de Jong, employees make packages remotely by estimating remotely where the suit should be played. “The customer then takes the suit off, it is played and then the customer can try it on again.

    Things are going well at Suitsupply’s stores in China that have also reopened, and it has been successfully tested in Amsterdam as well.

    Face masks are also available in shops for those who want to. At Bever, twelve stores are open again after adjustments and customers can also shop by making an appointment if they wish.

    “To be closed as a store for a month is very harmful,” says the spokesperson for the industry organization. “Customers can often go online, but that does not make up for the lost sales.”

    IKEA store says that no decision has yet been made about opening the stores again. “At the moment, our priority is the safety of our employees and customers and the company’s progress in the short and long term.”

    The Bijenkorf, Dutch department store, will also remain closed for the time being. “We are currently working on various scenarios to partially or completely reopen the physical stores, in accordance with RIVM guidelines and precautions,” the department store said. “Our main priority is the health and safety of our employees and customers.”

    In the shops that are or will be open, it will be checked whether the measures are observed, such as keeping a distance of 1.5 meters.

  • The coronavirus crisis has not yet had a real impact on the housing market and the number of sales has changed little since the government brought in measures to control the spread of the disease, according to estate agents’ organization NVM.”The enormous supply shortage is still with us and the conditions for buying a house remain positive,’ said NVM chairman Onno Hoes, adding that the long-term impact remains to be seen. Some experts suggest that the corona crisis will mean people be delayed in buying a house, partially because of their income.On Tuesday 7 April, economists of Dutch banking group ABN Amro said they expected the impact of COVID-19 will cause house prices to drop in 2021. If they do go down, it would be the first drop since 2014. But so far this year prices have continued to rise, the ABN Amro economic unit said.

Yesterday the invitations were sent for the second part of our COVID-19 Webinar Series, which will be organized in collaboration with Jones Day, HVG Law and Loyens & Loeff.

It will once again be organized from 9:00 AM in the morning, which makes it also possible for members in Japan to participate.In case you missed the invitation for this webinar, please let me know. We are also still brainstorming a lot to think of other temporary virtual opportunities as long as we cannot organize events.

Best wishes for everyone in these difficult times. If you have any problems or questions, feel free to contact us and we will do our utmost to offer support.

Kind regards,

Jinn van Gastel
Project Manager at Dujat

DUJAT (Dutch and Japanese Trade Federation)

蘭日貿易連盟 | www.dujat.nl

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Sources: NOSNRCMainichiNHKJapanTodayWorldometersbusiness.gov