Weekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 25, 2020

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Update on Japan

  • The total number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Japan stood at 17,587 on Wednesday 17 June, health officials said, with a total of 927 people who lost their lives as a result of the disease.The Tokyo metropolitan government on Tuesday reported 27 new coronavirus infections, which brought the total of COVID-19 cases in the capital to 5,619, the highest among the country’s 47 prefectures, according to officials. The number compares with 48 cases confirmed the previous day, which was the biggest daily increase since 5 May.Antibody tests for the novel coronavirus suggest a 0.1% infection rate in Tokyo, health minister Katsunobu Kato said on Tuesday 16 June, as the government seeks to better grasp the scale of the pandemic’s spread in Japan.The government plans to conduct an analysis of the antibodies at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases as it remains unknown how long they last in a person’s body and whether they can protect a person from becoming infected again.

    “We’d like to consider measures for utilizing antibody tests and (holding) further antibody surveys,” said Kato. The health ministry conducted the survey between 1 and 7 June, targeting residents aged 20 and above. It aimed to estimate how many people could become infected if a second wave occurs and how many would need vaccination.

    The ministry initially sought to collect samples from 10,000 people in total. In Japan, antibody tests have also been conducted in the private sector and by sports organizations, including the Japan Sumo Association. SoftBank Group Corporation has tested some 44,000 people, including its employees and medical workers, with 0.43% found to be positive.

    The rate was 1.79% among medical workers and 0.23% among employees at SoftBank group companies and their clients. It also showed some had antibodies despite having tested negative in the PCR test.

  • Japan will ease travel restrictions imposed to keep the novel coronavirus pandemic in check, starting with flights to Vietnam on a limited basis later this month, government sources said on Monday this week.A chartered flight is being arranged to fly around 250 Japanese business people, the sources said, adding they will be exempt from quarantine upon arrival in Vietnam and when they return to Japan on condition that they test negative for the coronavirus. The plan comes as Japan is in talks to resume travel with Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand and Thailand, where the coronavirus is under control and there is a relatively low risk of importing infections.Vietnam has not allowed entry or issued visas to foreign nationals since late March, with some exceptions including diplomats. Japan added Vietnam to its entry ban list in late April and the Japanese Foreign Ministry has issued a Level 3 travel advisory for the country urging nationals to avoid going there. Both countries mandate two-week quarantine periods for all arrivals.But under the new scheme, travelers between the countries will be exempt from these restrictions if they take polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests prior to departure and upon arrival, and test negative both times, the sources said. They will also have to submit itineraries detailing the hotels they are staying at and places they intend to visit.

    Business people such as executives will be given priority, with students and then tourists set to follow. Other countries on Japan’s entry ban list, including China, South Korea and the United States, may be taken off later depending on the situation, the sources said.

  • Osaka Mayor Ichiro Matsui has said that a clinical trial of a vaccine for the novel coronavirus will begin at a hospital in the city from 30 June. The vaccine was developed by AnGes Inc., a biopharmaceutical startup related to Osaka University. The clinical trial will take place at Osaka City University Hospital, Matsui said Tuesday.According to sources, the firm will carry out the trial with the participation of 30 applicants, including medical professionals, after completing animal testing on Monday. Matsui stressed the importance of developing a vaccine in Japan. He added that he was told by Osaka University professor Ryuichi Morishita, who founded AnGes, that the vaccine “will become available to the general public between spring and autumn next year.”In April this year, the city, which is the capital of Osaka Prefecture, and the prefectural government agreed with Osaka University and Osaka City University to cooperate in the development of a vaccine for the virus.
  • Economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura launched a panel of experts on Wednesday 17 June, to analyze the impact of the new coronavirus pandemic on international politics and the global economy.Nishimura, who is in charge of the government’s response to the coronavirus crisis, will collect opinions from the experts on possible effects from the pandemic on policies of countries across the globe, the international order and global supply chains.The panel, headed by University of Tokyo professor Fumiaki Kubo, will also discuss the maintenance of free trade systems. Nishimura aims to reflect the panel’s discussions and analysis in the government’s new basic economic and fiscal policy, to be compiled in July.

    “It’s important for Japan to play its role in maintaining and developing free trade,” Nishimura said at the start of the panel’s inaugural meeting Wednesday, apparently showing his concern over a rise in protectionism amid the pandemic.

  • The Japanese government has restarted its selection of contractors for back-office work for its Go To Campaign intended to mainly help the struggling tourism and restaurant industries. They revised the selection process in response to criticism of the high costs for the work being commissioned in relation to the project, a key stimulus measure drawn up to deal with the fallout from the new coronavirus pandemic.But the government does not seem to have taken any drastic step to cut the costs. The maximum outsourcing fees remain unchanged at ¥309.5 billion, nearly 20% of the project’s total cost of ¥1.7 trillion. The government has begun accepting applications to undertake the back-office work for Go To Travel Campaign, the tourism portion of the project. For that sector, the limit of the outsourcing costs is set at ¥229.4 billion and will be covered by the transport ministry and the tourism agency.Applications will be accepted until 29 June. The government hopes to finish the selection in early July so that the Go To Travel Campaign can be rolled out by early August. In the Go To Travel Campaign, tourists will be given discounts and coupons for shopping and eating at travel destinations worth up to ¥20,000 per person for each they night stay at an accommodation facility.

    Those on day trips will be given discounts and coupons worth up to ¥10,000. In addition to individual trips, group trips such as those by schools and companies will also be covered by the campaign. The contractor will undertake major work, including briefings for related business operators, promotional activities and the issuance of hundreds of millions of coupons.

  • The Japanese government stressed the need for individuals to take their holidays at different times of the year in its annual tourism report released Tuesday to reduce congestion and the spread of the novel coronavirus. The government also advocates in the latest white paper measures to limit contact between people at accommodation facilities to lower the risk of contracting the virus.Given a 99.9% plunge from a year earlier in inbound tourists to 2,900 in April due to strict border controls, domestic travelers will be “key to the recovery” of tourism demand in the immediate future, it said. The government had already been advocating for a change in travel routines before the pandemic began earlier this year, but with little success.To encourage staggered holidays, the latest tourism report proposes workstyle reforms such as a “workation,” in which people are advised to work remotely at their holiday destination. The report also proposes accommodation operators introduce their facilities to visitors with written materials instead of explaining them in person during the check-in process. At hot spring inns, it recommends limiting the number of people who can enter the baths at one time.
  • Japanese researchers have confirmed the presence of the coronavirus in wastewater plants, a finding that could serve as a signal for future outbreaks. The study tested water from four treatment plants in Ishikawa and Toyama prefectures in western Japan. Out of 27 samples, 7 were positive for the SARS-CoV2 virus, according to a preprint of a study by Toyama Prefectural University, Kanazawa University and Kyoto University.The findings mirror similar studies in Australia, the United States, and Europe. Public health experts say such sampling could be used to estimate the number of infected people in a region without testing every individual. “Sewage testing is used as an early warning system to alert people about (possibly unnoticed) ongoing community transmission,” said Yuki Furuse, a Kyoto University professor who wasn’t directly involved in the study.Japan is modifying its testing strategy as it braces for a possible second wave of infections. The health ministry reported Tuesday that antibody tests of almost 8,000 people indicated a 0.1% infection rate in Tokyo, 0.17% in Osaka, and 0.03% in rural Miyagi Prefecture.

    Also yesterday, the health ministry approved the use of antigen tests to confirm negative cases rather than repeated polymerise chain reaction (PCR) tests. Antigen tests, produced in Japan by a subsidiary of Miraca Holdings Inc, deliver results in 10-30 minutes, compared with up to six hours for a PCR test.

  • Japan’s exports sank 28% in May, while imports dropped 26% as the coronavirus pandemic slammed global trade. The provisional Ministry of Finance data, released on Wednesday 17 June, showed May was the second straight month Japan recorded a trade deficit.Japan has historically been criticized for racking up a huge trade surplus, not buying enough from the countries flooded with its products. Data show April last year is the last month in which both imports and exports weren’t negative, showing how exports and imports have been falling for more than a year.Japan’s growth relies on trade and tourism, as well as domestic small and medium consumer-oriented businesses, all of which have been hurt by the travel, stay-home and social-distancing restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19.

    The falls by nation were pronounced. Exports to the U.S. plunged by more than 50% and those to Australia declined 59%. Imports from the U.S. fell nearly 28% while those from Australia were down 29%. Trade with China was recovering to last year levels, with exports and imports both down about 12%.

    Japan has already slid into recession, defined as two straight quarters of contraction. The world’s third-largest economy had already slowed in the final quarter of last year before the virus reached a pandemic scale. The current quarter, through the end of June, is expected to show another contraction.

    The Japanese government has announced massive bailouts to businesses and cash handouts to prop up the economy. It has also reopened the economy, allowing stores, amusement parks and restaurants to go on as before, while requesting seats be placed farther apart and people wear masks.

Update on the Netherlands

  • The total number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Netherlands stood at 49,087 on Wednesday 17 June, health officials said, with a total of 6,070 people who lost their lives as a result of the disease.74 new deaths and 46 new hospital admissions have been reported in the past two weeks, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) said on Tuesday. The numbers are almost twice as small as in the previous two weeks.The testing policy was extended on 1 June: now anyone with corona-related complaints can have themselves tested for the virus. This also explains the increase in the number of infections detected.
  • The Dutch can go on holiday abroad again. As of Monday 15 June, the relaxation of travel advice for seventeen European countries has started. The relaxation means that people can go on holiday to, for example, Belgium, Germany, France and Italy. Portugal, Switzerland and the Czech Republic are also on the list of allowed countries.The advice for these countries has been scaled from orange to yellow. This means that, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, holiday trips are possible, but risks remain. The ministry points out that Dutch nationals in all countries must observe local corona measures. “It will not be as carefree as it was before the corona crisis,” said Minister Blok. “The situation remains uncertain.”For Denmark, Sweden and the United Kingdom, the travel advice will probably be orange all summer. This means that holiday travel is not recommended for these countries. Denmark itself does not allow Dutch tourists, Sweden and the United Kingdom are not considered safe enough.

    To look up information on border controls and travel restrictions in all Member States, the European Commission has launched the Re-open EU site and app.

  • On the evening of Tuesday 16 June, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) confirmed to adapt the guideline for children with a runny nose. As long as it is not accompanied by a fever, children up to the age of six with a runny nose no longer have to stay at home from school or daycare.On Monday, Dutch Youth Health Care Physicians (AJN Jeugdartsen Nederland) and the Dutch Association for Infectious Disease Control (NVIB) wrote in a statement that children suffering from minor colds should not be sent home. RIVM said Monday that caution is advised, but the institute still ended up revising the rule.
  • The Dutch economy will shrink 6% this year because of the coronavirus crisis while unemployment will double by 2021, CPB (Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis) said in its June forecasts.Without a second wave, the economy will contract in 2020 but grow again by 3% in 2021, the CPB said. Unemployment will rise from 3.4% to 5% this year, and again to 7% next year. Public finances would be severely impacted but “they would not enter the danger zone.”At the same time, the agency warned of the ‘great uncertainties’ ahead, particularly the likely impact of a second wave, which would require tough measures on social distancing and further damage the economy.

    “The current government is facing major dilemmas,” said Pieter Hasekamp, director of CPB. “During the recovery phase, we need a managed withdrawal of state support, but the measure to which the government can withdraw depends on the speed of the recovery.”

    If there is a second wave GDP would decrease also in 2021, with unemployment rising to 10% and public debt increasing to over 75% of GDP,’ the agency said. The CPB’s forecasts, which have a key role when ministers draw up their budgets for the coming year, are roughly in line with those published by Rabobank earlier this month.

  • Traveling by plane to Barcelona and paying ‘almost nothing’. Political parties D66 and ChristenUnie actually want to get rid of that. They argue for a minimum price for airplane tickets; they should not be cheaper than 34 euros. The government parties want to prevent airlines from stunting with prices after the corona crisis.At the moment, most aircraft are grounded. More and more parties in the House of Representatives are afraid that there will soon be a major competitive battle for the preservation of air rights at Schiphol.”There is a good chance that after the crisis, companies will try to stick to routes,” said D66 MP Jan Paternotte. “To fill those planes, they are going to stunt with tickets. They are going to sell them for very cheap prices.” Flying a lot, especially at short distances, has major environmental consequences, says Paternotte.

    With the support of all left-wing opposition parties, the proposal has a chance of success. GroenLinks has previously argued for a minimum ticket price, following Austria. There the lower limit of 40 euros is a condition for state aid to the airline Austrian Airlines.

    In the Netherlands, KLM will also receive billions of euros in support to overcome the consequences of the corona crisis, the cabinet has announced. Conditions will also be attached to this, although it is not yet clear what these exactly are.

  • In the next ten years, the number of homes in the Netherlands will have to increase with 845,000 in order to prevent the housing shortage from rising any further. That is one of the main conclusions in the report Staat van de Woningmarkt 2020 of the Ministry of the Interior (Ministerie van Binnenlandse Zaken). The annual report contains the most important developments in the housing market of the past year. It was presented to the House of Representatives by Minister OIlongren.There is currently a shortage of 331,000 homes in the Netherlands, 4.2% of the housing stock. The aim is to reduce this shortage to 2% in 2035. Since the Netherlands is expected to have around 18.8 million inhabitants in that year, not only will many homes be built in the coming years to make up for the shortage, but also to meet the increasing demand.Starters and middle incomes are struggling to find a suitable home in the current housing market, the report reports. They often have to settle for the existing housing stock. The share of first-time buyers in the owner-occupied market fell from 48% in 2013 to 32% in 2019.

    The corona crisis also has consequences for the housing market. According to the report, there is a risk that people may become more reluctant to buy a home, making it less likely for investors and developers to invest in new home construction. Minister Ollongren points out that in the previous crisis of 2008 we saw that the demand for housing returned quickly, while the effects on construction can have a long lasting effect.

    On 16 June, newspapers wrote that a group of 27 housing corporations in the major Dutch cities are pushing 23.4 billion euros into the construction and renovation of social rental housing, including making them more sustainable, over the next 5 years. The amount is over 3 billion euros higher than in the previous 5 year period, De Vernieuwde Stad, a partnership of the corporations, announced.

    With this money, the corporations can build 52,000 new homes and renovate or increase the sustainability of 238,000 homes, compared to 47,000 new homes and 251,000 renovated houses in the previous period.

    According to the corporations, the main obstacles in their way to further expand construction and renovation are the increase in construction costs and the high tax burden. If the landlord levy, for example, was scrapped, the housing corporations could build an extra 20,000 homes, they said.

  • While regional lockdowns are being considered in the event of a second wave of Covid-19 infections in the Netherlands, such an approach would run into a number of problems, Nijmegen mayor and Security Council chairman Hubert Bruls told television program EenVandaag on Monday 15 June.”In the beginning, the rules were much clearer. The more you leave open, the more conversation there will be and the more ambiguity. We have to be prepared for that,” Bruls said. According to him, this could result in much more being allowed in the north of the country than only 50 kilometers away in the south.”We know that there will be a dashboard that shows the situation of all 25 safety regions. We are working with the cabinet to see whether we can actually apply these different rules. But we are also very aware that it leads to discussion,” explained Bruls, adding that some rules, such as the 1.5-meter social distancing guidelines, should remain in force everywhere to avoid confusing people. “In theory you can [let regions decide on the 1.5-meter rule], but I wouldn’t do it.”

    “The basis of the policy is based on a distance of 1.5 meters. That is really the backbone of our anti-coronavirus policy. I think the country is too small and that it cannot be explained if you allow differences in that,” added Bruls.

Update on Dujat & Members

  • If your company has any news 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: Nu.nlNOSNLTimesJapanTimesJapanTodayMainichiKyodo NewsWorldometers