Weekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 18, 2020

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Update on Japan

  • The total number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Japan stood at 13,736 on Wednesday 29 April, health officials said, with a total of 394 people who lost their lives as a result of the disease. Daily cases of COVID-19 in Tokyo have topped 100 people recently. There were 47 new cases reported in Tokyo on Wednesday, bringing the total number of infections in the capital to 4,106.
  • Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike called for an extension of Japan’s nationwide “state of emergency” on Wednesday 29 April. “Tokyo is still facing a serious situation and so I would like to have it go on longer,” she told reporters.The state of emergency, declared by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, lasts through 6 May, which marks the end of the Golden Week holidays that began this week. The government has asked people not to travel during the holidays.

    There is no lockdown in Japan, and some businesses and restaurants remain open, though the usually jam-packed commuter trains and streets of Tokyo are less crowded.

  • Japan will soon provide 38 countries with Fujifilm’s anti-flu drug Avigan, which is seen as a potential treatment for COVID-19.Foreign Minister Motegi Toshimitsu says the countries, which include the Netherlands, the Philippines and Malaysia, will receive the anti-flu drug that was developed by a group firm of Fujifilm Holdings Corp.

    He said they are among more than 70 countries that have requested a supply of Avigan that the Japanese government has offered to provide for free. Motegi said recipient countries will send clinical trial data to Japan.

    He stressed that it’s crucial to develop curative drugs to contain the pandemic. He said he will push ahead with public-private partnerships and international cooperation to promote development of medicines to treat the virus.

  • On Wednesday 29 April, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe suggested his government may consider a proposal to introduce a school year starting in September, in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic in Japan.“I would like to study various options at a time when our country faces major changes” amid the virus crisis, he said at a meeting of the Lower House Budget Committee in response to Yuichiro Tamaki, head of the major opposition Democratic Party for the People.At the same time he said, “Some people are cautious about the September enrollment system, arguing that it would have major impacts (on society), and I’m fully aware of such opinions.”

    Abe’s remarks came after education minister Koichi Hagiuda said on Tuesday that September enrollment is an option. Ruling coalition officials are cautious about an opposition party proposal to delay the start of the school year, normally in April, to September amid school closures due to the coronavirus outbreak.

  • Japan’s health ministry has allowed dentists to carry out coronavirus tests when physicians and other qualified healthcare staff are unavailable.The ministry notified local governments that they can have dentists conduct PCR tests at local coronavirus testing centers as a special measure.

    Dentists, who do not have physician’s licenses, are to be required to take relevant training, including that for collecting samples from patients’ noses and throats, before going on duty. Patients’ consent is also required.

    Up to about 8,800 PCR tests were carried out per day in Japan in mid-April. The figure is about four times the number from a month earlier, and is likely to rise.

    The ministry says some local governments have already asked about the approval of the scheme. Expert panels under local governments and medical associations are expected to discuss the need for the measure and how to implement it.

  • Osaka Prefecture announced on Monday 27 April it will name and shame more pachinko parlors that are defying coronavirus closure requests after three out of six locations it identified on Friday subsequently closed. This marked the first such move under Japan’s state of emergency declaration.”A lot of places have closed down after we named the six last week. We are now conducting a survey of pachinko parlors and will announce the results accordingly,” a spokesman for Osaka Prefecture said.

    The continued operation of some noisy gambling halls is a conspicuous reminder of the limits of Japanese government’s ability to lock down cities with requests rather than orders backed up with fines.

    Japan has shied away from stronger enforcement steps in part because of memories of civil rights abuses during World War Two, and protection of such rights are enshrined in Japan’s U.S.-drafted post-war constitution.

    Pachinko parlors, where players sit back-to-back at long rows of machines with bouncing steel balls and garish lights, are a common sight in Japan and easy for health officials to identify.

    “They are big, and we know were they are. When it comes to bars and restaurants that are still operating, however, finding them is more difficult,” said the Osaka Prefecture spokesman.

    Osaka’s methods were followed by Hyogo Prefecture, with other prefectures now also taking similar name-and-shame measures.

    In Tokyo, as of Sunday 26 April, 156 out of roughly 600 pachinko parlors still remained open, but the number dropped to 22 on Monday, with all agreeing to comply on Tuesday, after 60 metropolitan government officials in 15 teams directly visited noncompliant businesses and requested they close, said Governor Yuriko Koike.

    But after media investigations revealed some parlors were still open as of Tuesday afternoon, the metropolitan government amended its statement.

    The city will deliver a written closure request to those businesses and is expected to publicize the names of those who are noncompliant after Wednesday.

  • The number of people in Japan who became unemployed due to the coronavirus outbreak has surged to over 3,000. Japan’s labor ministry says 3,391 people nationwide lost their jobs, or were expected to, from the end of January through Monday. More than 2,000 did so in the past month.As many as 12,395 companies have fired or laid off workers, or are considering taking such measures. Many are tourism and hotel businesses, which have been hit hard by decreasing numbers of foreign and domestic travelers.

    Another 249 companies fired more than 30 employees from January to March for financial reasons, for a total of 9,620 lost jobs.

    The firms include 113 manufacturers, 54 wholesalers and retailers, 16 hotels and restaurants and 15 medical care and welfare service firms.

Update on the Netherlands

  • The total number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Netherlands stood at 38,416 on Wednesday 29 April, health officials said, with a total of 4,566 people who lost their lives as a result of the disease.
  • For the time being, there will be no relaxation of the corona measures, not even for people with a contact profession, such as hairdressers. Last week, a part of the Dutch House of Representatives urged that professions such as hairdressers and nail salons, with protective equipment, should be able to return to work again quickly.However, sources around the cabinet report that such an extension is not yet in place, as was reported by NOS. Tomorrow the most involved ministers will meet again in crisis deliberation.

    No major policy changes are expected afterwards, the sources say. No press conference has been announced either.The ban on contact professions is valid until 20 May.

    If possible, this should be withdrawn sooner, the House thinks. Virologist Jaap van Dissel of RIVM said last week that protective equipment, such as mouth masks, could play a role in an exit strategy.

  • Air France-KLM will receive up to 11 billion euros in financial aid from the French and Dutch government as the coronavirus pandemic pushes many airlines closer to bankruptcy.The Dutch government said on Friday 24 April that it would provide between 2 billion euros and 4 billion euros in state aid to KLM, while the French cabinet announced a support package of 7 billion euros for Air France.

    The deal, which has yet to be approved by competition authorities, includes conditions in return for the handout. KLM will not be able to pay dividends or award bonuses for as long as it receives state support and workers will have to take a pay cut, according to a statement.

    The airline will also have to adopt a greener approach, for example, by cutting back the number of night flights.

    At a press conference on Friday, Minister Hoekstra repeatedly emphasized the great importance of the airline to our economy. According to the cabinet, this justifies the financial support to KLM with 2 to 4 billion euros in guarantees and loans.

  • Minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen of Infrastructure and Water Management wrote a letter to the House of Representatives, saying she wants European guarantee fund for airline tickets.Since the coronavirus outbreak and resulting travel restrictions, airlines have had to drop many thousands of flights, just as tour operators have had to cancel many trips. The tour operators have devised a voucher, instead of giving clients their money back for the canceled trip. The value of those vouchers is covered by the Travel Guarantee Fund.

    Airlines also started distributing vouchers to passengers whose flights have been canceled. However, these are not covered by the guarantee fund. According to the minister, in the case of Air France-KLM, the parent company of KLM, these are vouchers worth of about 3 billion euros that have already been issued.

    Although according to European law,passengers are entitled to a refund when a flight is canceled, Minister van Nieuwenhuizen says the vouchers should prevent airlines from going bankrupt. But if they still do go bankrupt, this does mean that customers who received a voucher will be left empty-handed.

    According to Van Nieuwenhuizen, other European companies have also issued the vouchers.

  • More companies will be eligible for the one time financial support of 4,000 euros that the cabinet has made available to entrepreneurs who have been hit hard by the corona virus. From now on, secondary activities will also be considered instead of just the main activity.This was announced on Tuesday 28 April by state secretary Mona Keijzer (Economic Affairs). From Wednesday, entrepreneurs can pass on their secondary activity, as they have stated in the Trade Register, for support.

    The conditions remain the same: entrepreneurs must expect a loss of turnover of at least 4,000 euros in three months and have fixed costs for the same amount.

  • Official figures on how many entrepreneurs are involved are not yet available. The Hague sources think that around 10,000 extra companies will be eligible for the aid.The government is also increasing the budget to stimulate start-ups and technology companies by 10 million to 32 million euros.
  • In order to be able to receive corona patients in the coming years, the capacity of the Intensive Care must rise structurally from 1150 beds to 1531. The National Association for Intensive Care (NVIC), the National Co-ordination Centre for Patient Distribution (LCPS) and the public health agency RIVM said this in a report on 28 April.The calculation takes group immunity into account, and assumes that 60% of the Dutch population must be infected and 0.45% ends up at the Intensive Care. This leads to approximately 37,500 ICU patients over the next three years. Evenly distributed (peaks and troughs not included), unless there is a vaccine, this creates a permanent need for 639 IC sites for COVID-19 patients.

Despite the current situation, hopefully you were able to enjoy a nice long weekend. Stay safe and healthy!

Kind regards,

Jinn van Gastel
Project Manager at Dujat

DUJAT (Dutch and Japanese Trade Federation)

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Sources: NOSNuNHKJapanTimesJapanTodayWorldometers