Weekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 30, 2020

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Update on Japan

  • The Tokyo metropolitan government reported 237 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Tuesday 21 July, Gov. Yuriko Koike said, as the capital struggles to strike a balance between restarting the economy and controlling infections.Tokyo’s cumulative total reached 9,816, nearing 10,000, as the single-day figure, which compared with 168 cases on Monday, topped the 200-mark for the first time in three days.As of Monday, out of the around 1,500 hospital beds secured by the Tokyo government for coronavirus treatment, 920, or about 60%, were occupied amid a resurgence of the pandemic.

    Since the government entirely lifted a state of emergency in the country in late May, the number of additional infections has been on an uptrend in Tokyo. Other areas in Japan have also started seeing sharp rises in confirmed cases of the virus, including those near Tokyo — Kanagawa and Chiba, as well as the central Japan prefecture of Aichi, and Kyoto and Osaka in western Japan.

    Monday 20 July, Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura expressed recognition that his western Japan prefecture is “experiencing a second wave, in terms of numbers” of novel coronavirus infections, to reporters at the prefectural headquarters.

    He also indicated that he will not restrict movements during the four-day holiday beginning on 23 July, by saying, “Restrictions on movements cause severe economic damage but have little effect. I don’t intend to ask people to refrain from traveling.”

  • Japan plans to revise the existing special law for combatting the spread of the novel coronavirus to give greater authority to local governments across the country, officials said Sunday.”A new law is necessary,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on a TV program, as the number of infections has been spiking since the government fully lifted a nationwide state of emergency in May and eased restrictions on business and social activities thereafter.As prefectural governors have been calling for more power to be given to local governments in their fight against the pandemic, it is the first time that Suga has touched on the need to amend the special measures law against new types of infectious diseases.

    During the Fuji TV program, he said a program to compensate businesses that comply with closure requests based on the law should be prepared, while showing reluctance to declare a state of emergency in limited regions. The governors want to see the special law toughened and noncompliance with requests for business closures to entail penalties.

    As the country continues to see a rising number of people infected with the pneumonia-causing virus, particularly at nightlife establishments such as hostess and host bars, Suga said more on-site inspections will be conducted there based on the law regulating adult entertainment, without waiting for the planned amendment. “We will tighten up by having more police officers step in,” he said.

  • The Japanese government said on Tuesday it will cover cancellation fees incurred by Tokyoites and those who planned to travel to the Japanese capital after excluding Tokyo at the last minute from a domestic tourism promotion campaign to help coronavirus pandemic-hit regions.The Go To Travel campaign, which will kick off on Wednesday 22 July, was plunged into disarray after the government said last week that trips to and from Tokyo will not be covered by the scheme because of a surge in infections in the capital.The program subsidizes up to half of all travel expenses, including accommodation and transport costs. Tourism minister Kazuyoshi Akaba said the government will cover the cancellation fees for trips to and from Tokyo reserved between 10 July and Friday, the day he said the capital would be excluded.

    Akaba acknowledged the government failed to provide the public with sufficient explanations on cancellation fees during the period. The government asked hotel and tour operators not to charge cancellation fees and return them to customers, saying the government will compensate for the losses sustained by the operators.

    The move came amid growing public anger after Akaba also said Friday that the government had no plans to cover the losses. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to compensate tourists while stressing the need for the campaign in a meeting with executives of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

    Hotel and shop operators at popular tourist sites complained of confusion surrounding the campaign, which has seen a slew of changes since its formal announcement on 10 July, as well as concern about the spread of infections. The 1.35 trillion yen travel campaign was initially slated to begin in August but was brought forward to start ahead of the four-day long weekend from Thursday.

  • An organization representing scientists in Japan wants the government to establish a permanent committee on measures against infectious diseases. The Science Council of Japan put forward the idea after considering the government’s response to the coronavirus.The scientists point out that there were problems with the preparations. They say virus tests were insufficient in the early stages of the outbreak, mainly due to a lack of manpower. They also note that emergency medical care systems had not been fully established, and that public health centers and other facilities were not equipped to deal with large-scale infections.Considering these factors, the council called for the establishment of a permanent, independent committee within the Cabinet Office. The council says the committee would consist of experts on infectious diseases and medical care, and would provide the Cabinet with advice on preventing infectious diseases from entering the country and on medical care systems. The council also says the committee would propose countermeasures in the event of an emergency.

    The president of the council, Yamagiwa Juichi, said during an online news conference that the government is struggling to find solutions, and that the scientists will continue discussions and offer ideas for more effective measures.

  • The head of a group of nightlife entertainment businesses urged the government on Monday to be more realistic in helping their industry weather the coronavirus pandemic, as Japan grapples with a rising number of infections with many clusters traced back to their sector.”Neither the central government nor the Tokyo metropolitan government are making efforts to come up with a fundamental solution (as in virus countermeasures),” Kaori Koga, representative director of the Nightlife Business Association, told a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.Referring to the negative perception on their businesses during the outbreak of the virus, Koga said, “Nothing will change if you only criticize us as the villains here,” and she urged the governments to see the realities of their industry.

    Tokyo’s daily infection cases have sharply increased, and many clusters of COVID-19 infection cases have been found to be related to nightlife entertainment districts, mostly concentrated in Shinjuku’s Kabukicho district, home to host clubs and hostess bars.

    These establishments have drawn public and political ire for being what is perceived as a hotbed for infections, as they seem to fit all the conditions set out by the government — confined and crowded places, and close contact with people.

    Koga said social distancing, as requested by the government, is unrealistic for their businesses, and called for more flexibility, in which establishments publicly report the virus countermeasures they have taken.

    She also suggested setting up an online certification system for nightlife workers to prove their understanding of hygiene and disease prevention. The idea is that the more the workers are certified, the more it would boost their establishments’ reputation.

  • About one in four people who cycle to work in Tokyo began commuting by bicycle in order to avoid crowds because of the coronavirus pandemic, a recent online survey found. A total of 23.0% of 500 businesspeople in Tokyo who cycle to work at least once a week said they started commuting by bicycle “after the novel coronavirus began to spread,” according to the survey conducted in June by Japanese insurer Au Insurance Co.In a multiple-choice question, 95.7% of those who newly started cycling to work said they did so “in order to avoid using public transportation for commutes.” Trains and buses fall under the “3Cs” — confined spaces, crowded places and close-contact settings — that should be avoided to prevent the spread of the virus.”The number of people cycling to work is expected to increase as the ‘new normal’ to coexist with the virus draws attention,” the firm said in a press release. In a question that allowed multiple responses, 44.3% said an added benefit of cycling to work was “exercise,” 27.8% said they did so “to relieve stress” while 21.7% wanted to “save transportation fees.”

    A total 88.0% said they felt or somewhat felt their risk of contracting the virus was lower when they commuted by bicycle compared with using public transportation. The survey conducted between 19 – 22 June also showed 32.0% of the respondents said their employers recommended commuting by bicycle after the coronavirus outbreak in Japan.

Update on the Netherlands

  • 987 new COVID-19 infections were reported over the past week, RIVM reports in their weekly update, on Tuesday 21 July. That is nearly twice as many as last week. Hospital admissions for 19 patients due to COVID-19 were reported (current or previous). That is an increase of 3 patients compared to last week. 7 deaths were reported, 1 less than the week before.Not all of the reported confirmed cases, hospital admissions or deaths 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.The novel coronavirus is starting to spread again in the Netherlands. The number of people infected with the novel coronavirus is increasing. The percentage of positive tests in the test lanes is rising, and the reproduction number (Rt) is above 1.
  • The negotiations took several days, but in the morning of Tuesday 21 July, the 27 leaders of the European Union member states reached an agreement on a recovery fund to help European economies with the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. Prime Minister Mark Rutte is satisfied with the deal, speaking of a “comprehensive and good package in which the Dutch interests are well safeguarded” at a press conference, NOS and NU.nl report.The recovery fund consists of 750 billion euros in subsidies and loans. Part of the reason why the negotiations took so long was disagreement on how this should be divided. Germany and France initially wanted 500 billion euros to be subsidies, but the Netherlands, Denmark, Austria and Sweden – the so-called ‘frugal four’ – wanted more loans than subsidies. Now 390 billion euros of the amount will be subsidies, the other 360 billion euros loans.Subsidized countries will have to meet certain conditions and implement reforms – one of the Netherlands’ requirements. But less money will be available for research and development than the Netherlands would have liked.

    Rutte had come under fire during the summit in Brussels for opposing no-strings relief for the countries worst hit by the Covid-19 outbreak, such as Italy and Spain. He said those countries should first pledge to reform their economies.

    According to Rutte, it is very important that the reforms are “nailed down”, both for Europe and for the Netherlands. “That makes for strong member states and a strong internal market.”

    European Council president Charles Michel is also satisfied with the deal. “It is a good deal, it is a strong deal, and most importantly, it is the right deal for Europe right now,” he said at the press conference.

    The recovery fund is linked to the European Union’s multi-annual budget, which will now amount to 1,074 billion euros. Agreements were also made on this budget. The Netherlands will get a higher discount on the annual EU contribution, now a discount of 1.92 billion euros, and can have a say in the use of the subsidies from the recovery fund.

    There will be an emergency brake, referred to by some as the ‘super emergency brake’. That is an opportunity to intervene if a project does not meet the conditions or if a country does not implement reforms. At such a moment, a country can raise its finger and say that funding must be stopped. Countries can also use that against the Netherlands. Prime Minister Rutte expects that little use will be made of the emergency brake.

  • Lawsuits with online sessions are an opportunity to improve access to justice. That is why it is good if remote hearings remain possible after the corona crisis.Robine de Lange, president of the Rotterdam court, and Henk Naves, chairman of the Council for the Judiciary, said this on Tuesday in an interview with Trouw. The directors emphasize that not all matters are suitable for online settlement. Remote hearings should in no way detract from people’s care or feeling that the judge sees and hears them.In recent months, the corona crisis has forced experiments with video calling in court cases, including criminal cases. A suspect then calls in from a prison via a video screen.

    The Ministry of Justice and Security made remote hearings possible through a temporary law. If judges want to continue to have the opportunity, a legislative change is necessary. De Lange and Naves see online dial-up as an extra option. “It sometimes happens that one of the parties cannot be present, because traveling to court is difficult, or because it is difficult to take time off from work. Offering someone to call in via Skype can then be a solution,” says De Lange.

    In criminal cases, ‘telehoren‘ offers an opportunity to work more efficiently. For short, interim hearings, it is not always necessary to bring suspects to and from court. The Netherlands Bar Association (Nederlandse Orde van Advocaten) also says it is best to see a future in remote hearings. As long as those involved in a case agree and do not feel compelled to do so in any way, emphasizes Petra van Kampen, member of the general council of the order.

    According to her, the experiences of lawyers in recent months have not been entirely positive. “Yes, hearings can certainly improve access to justice, but for a significant number of litigants it increases the distance to the judge. This certainly applies if remote hearing effectively means that someone is only partially seen and limitedly heard. ”

  • The first test results of the Oxford corona vaccine, of which the Netherlands, together with Germany, France and Italy, have reserved at least 300 million potential vaccines, are positive. “It is safe and triggers a response from the immune system,” said Monday.It concerns AZD1222, which is made by the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and scientists from the University of Oxford. The results were published in the journal The Lancet. These are the phase 1 test results, which examined whether the vaccine is safe and whether the immune system responds to the vaccine.Neutralizing antibodies associated with protection against COVID-19 have been found, but “more testing is needed to see if the vaccine actually protects against infection,” it is said. It is also unknown how long these antibodies remain in the body.

    Incidentally, it is no surprise that the results of phase 1 are positive: research into this vaccine is currently already in phase 3. In this phase, a large group of people is investigating whether the vaccine protects against COVID-19. The first phase study population was young and had no underlying medical problems. The drug has yet to be tested in the elderly and people with ailments.

    The hope is that the vaccine can be produced on a large scale before the end of the year. Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet, said on Twitter that the results are very promising and congratulates the researchers.

  • Nearly twenty thousand walkers start the Alternative Four Days Marches on Tuesday 21 July. The walking event, in which each participant composes their own route, serves as an alternative to the annual Nijmegen Four Days Marches, which was canceled this year due to the corona crisis.Those who want to take part can register for a 10, 20, 30, 40 or 50-km hike per day on the KWBN’s wandel.nl website. Participants then walk their routes from 21 – 24 July. Those who participate will not receive the Cross of the Four Day Marches but will be awarded a special souvenir.Most walkers cover 10 or 20 kilometers, which is remarkable because these distances are not walked during the Nijmegen Four Days Marches. According to a KNWB spokesperson, this is because the Alternative Four Days Marches also attracts new audiences in addition to experienced walkers. “For example, parents with children who are too young for the Nijmegen Four Days Marches,” says the spokeswoman.

    The Nijmegen Four Days Marches normally start on the third Tuesday of July. In 2019, nearly 45,000 hikers participated. The RIVM has said it hopes people will take part in the Alternative Four Days Marches initiative but calls for social distancing and other protective measures to be adhered to while taking part. This sentiment is shared by Hubert Bruls, the mayor of Nijmegen, who urged people to follow RIVM guidelines.

    “Of course we hope to greet everyone healthy in Nijmegen again next year, but for now we think it is important that people keep moving and discover how walking can contribute to public health,” he said.

  • The third small earthquake in a week struck the province of Groningen early Sunday morning. The quake registered a magnitude of 2.3, and its epicenter was in Startenhuizen, meteorological agency KNMI said.It struck seconds before 4:08 a.m., and was followed by an aftershock registering 0.9 about four minutes later, data from the agency showed. The earthquake was determined to be induced by human activity, a fairly common occurrence in the region due to decades of natural gas extraction.The strongest earthquake this year took place on Tuesday in Loppersum, registering a magnitude of 2.7 at about 5:15 p.m. Two days later, another earthquake hit Hellum, and reached 1.8 on the Richter scale. The institute form mining damage in Groningen IMG told NOS that it received over 260 damage reports after Tuesday’s quake.

    The national government has dramatically scaled back gas mining in the province, with plans to halt the practice completely in the latter half of 2022. Not soon enough, said Loppersum Mayor Hans Engels.

    “Residents of Loppersum were again frightened by a major earthquake. I hope that it penetrates now in The Hague that we are not there yet and that real steps are finally taken towards a safe and healthy area,” he said on social media following Tuesday’s earthquake. The Oxford vaccine is one of the few vaccines that are currently or very soon being tested on humans on a large scale.

Update on Dujat & Members

  • 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: ADNOSZorginstituutNLRIVMCBSJapanTodayMainichiKyodo News