Weekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 31, 2020

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Update on Japan

  • On Tuesday 28 July, the Tokyo metropolitan government reported 266 new cases of coronavirus, as public concern mounts over the pace of infections becoming faster than ever this month. The single-day figure compares with 131 confirmed on Monday when it slipped below the 200-mark for the first time in seven days.The number of Tokyo’s confirmed new coronavirus cases in July is now over 5,000, accounting for nearly 50% of its cumulative total. The capital has seen single-day new infections in the triple digits on all but two days of July, with Thursday’s 366 a record high.Osaka and Aichi prefectures also recorded all-time highs in new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, reporting 155 and 110, respectively. Aichi Gov. Hideaki Omura said a pivotal moment in a second wave had arrived and asked citizens — especially younger people — to avoid unnecessary outings since infections are spreading mainly in busy districts of Nagoya.
  • The Japanese government will ask the business community to ensure that each company has 70% or more employees work from home, economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said last Sunday, 26 July.The government will also call on businesses not to hold large-scale gatherings, including drinking parties, Nishimura, who is leading the government’s virus response effort, told a news conference.He said that the government will make the requests as coronavirus cases have been increasing across Japan. Nishimura said that the proportion of commuters once fell to 20 – 30% of previous levels but recently rose back to some 70%.

    “Businesses should not step back but maintain the proportion of teleworking through various ways of working,” he said. The government will also urge businesses to comply with coronavirus prevention guidelines, promote staggered commuting, have employees with poor health conditions stay at home and promote the introduction of the health ministry’s contact-tracing smartphone app.

    The minister said he is watching the coronavirus infection situation with a sense of vigilance as cases in elderly people at higher risk of developing severe symptoms have been gradually increasing. The government will convene a meeting of experts as early as this week to assess the situation and discuss responses, Nishimura said.

    Separately, the government is also scheduled to hold a meeting of experts on 5 August to analyze the effects of its coronavirus state of emergency that was in place between early April and late May.

  • On Monday 27 July, East Japan Railway Co. unveiled autonomous disinfection and mobility robots at its recently opened high-tech station in Tokyo, as it aims to introduce them by March 2025.The cleaning robot, which was developed by Nippon Signal Co. and Cyberdyne Inc., sanitizes handrails, benches and other parts of Takanawa Gateway Station by spraying disinfectant. The artificial-intelligence equipped robot, Clinabo CL02, uses three-dimensional cameras and sensors to avoid obstacles.JR East said it is considering using the robot and other disinfection robots to be introduced later to sanitize the inside of train cars in the future. In another demonstration, a robot that looks like a Yamanote Line train car served coffee in a conference room at the station.

    Other robots that carry luggage, food and drinks, as well as personal mobility vehicles for transporting people inside and around the station are also being operated on a trial basis as part of a project showcasing the area around the new station.

    The railway company is introducing advanced robots at Takanawa Gateway Station as a test site of new technology. The station is the 30th station on JR East’s Yamanote Line that opened opened between Tamachi and Shinagawa stations in March. AI robots that provide train transfer information and detect suspicious items have already been installed at the station and there is a convenience store with automated checkouts.

  • Japan is paving the way for autonomous delivery robots to become part of everyday life, with social distancing efforts required during the coronavirus pandemic making the push all the more vital.The coronavirus crisis has increased the appeal of services that allow for reduced human contact and Japanese firms are counting on the potential of robots that can, in the not so distant future, deliver a range of products from nearby warehouses or shops to consumers.In August, an autonomous delivery robot developed by ZMP Inc, dubbed the DeliRo, will deliver Japanese soba noodle dishes to customers in a trial in Tokyo. Customers can place orders via tablet device during the event from 12 – 16 August near JR Takanawa Gateway Station, make a cashless payment and have their food delivered by the robot within a designated area.

    “We want to explore what kinds of autonomous delivery services are possible and what the DeliRo can offer at a time when new lifestyles are called for amid the coronavirus outbreak,” a ZMP official said.

    The DeliRo, measuring about 1 meter in height with a load capacity of 50 kilograms, is capable of detecting and avoiding obstacles blocking its way using advanced autonomous driving tech. It travels at a maximum speed of 6 kilometers per hour. The Japanese government is stepping up its push for autonomous delivery services in the hope they will alleviate the acute shortage of labor in the rapidly aging country.

    One outstanding issue, however, is to decide how to treat low-speed, self-driving vehicles that travel below 6 km per hour because the existing legal framework in Japan does not cover them, an impediment to conducting test runs on public roads.

    An expert panel under the National Police Agency has begun discussions on how traffic rules should apply to the delivery robots and the government aims to allow trials on public roads this year, as long as they can be monitored remotely. E-commerce giant Rakuten has said it plans to carry out a demonstration of a delivery service using an autonomous vehicle on a public road by the end of 2020.

  • Japan’s government on Wednesday slightly raised its economic view for a second straight month in July, though authorities conceded that the situation remained severe in light of a renewed spike in coronavirus cases in many parts of the world.The government described the world’s third-largest economy as “showing signs of picking up” from the COVID-19-induced recession, underscoring cautious optimism among policymakers as more countries have started re-opening their economies following lockdowns to curb the spread of the virus.Although the global economy has shown some signs of bottoming out recently, analysts say world demand for cars and other durable goods is unlikely to recover strongly given the resurgence of coronavirus cases in major economies.

    “The Japanese economy remains in severe situation due to the novel coronavirus, but it is showing signs of picking up recently,” the government said in its economic report for July. “The pick-up trend in the economy is expected to continue… However, attention should be paid to the risk that domestic and overseas infections would affect economies.” the report added.

    Japan’s economy is in the grip of its worst postwar recession as the health crisis takes a heavy toll on business and consumer activity. It is forecast to shrink 5.3% this fiscal year, the biggest contraction in decades, followed by a 3.3% bounce next year, a Reuters poll showed.

    With car exports to China, the United States and European Union bottoming out, and with auto production starting to pick up from June, the government raised its view on exports and output. Shipments were about to stop contracting, and output showed signs of picking up in some industries although it was declining as a whole, the report said.

    However, a Cabinet Office official said an exports recovery is unlikely to be very strong. The government also lifted its view on business sentiment for a second straight month in July to say corporate morale showed the trend towards improvement, a slightly better assessment than the previous month.

  • Japan’s health ministry will conduct its first nationwide survey possibly next month to look into how the new coronavirus pandemic has affected mental health, according to ministry and other sources.The online survey covering 10,000 people is expected to show whether the government’s requests to avoid unnecessary outings and voluntarily close businesses led to an increase in cases of depression and other forms of mental stress, the sources said.The results of the survey are expected to be utilized by local mental health and welfare centers across the country in responding to future mental illness cases amid a sign of a resurgence in coronavirus infections.

    The outbreak of the virus has had a lingering impact on the mental health of people around the world. The United Nations said in May that 45% of the population surveyed in the United States felt distress, and it urged the international community to do much more to protect the most vulnerable during and after the pandemic.

    The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry plans to ask those polled to report their mental status and how they dealt with any stress in April and May, when the government declared a nationwide state of emergency, among other questions, according to the sources.

    In the two months, mental health and welfare centers run by local governments saw a surge in mental health consultations related to the coronavirus, in particular among those in their 40s and 50s, according to the health ministry.

    Psychiatrist Yasuto Kunii, an associate professor at Tohoku University who was a member of the ministry team, pointed out that the coronavirus pandemic boosted the number of mental illness patients as it exacerbated the conditions of those with mental problems who until then had withstood them. “There has probably been much damage among those who have not sought medical advice,” Kunii said.

    In June, the Japanese Society of Psychiatry and Neurology and four other academic communities described the pandemic as a “disaster” in their mental health guidelines and they asked for stronger support for those vulnerable to mental health problems including coronavirus patients, medical workers, the elderly and children.

    “I hope (the government) will devise questions so that specific countermeasures can be found, rather than merely showing in the survey the percentage of those who have mental problems,” Hirokazu Tachikawa, a University of Tsukuba professor, said.

Update on the Netherlands

  • 1,329 new COVID-19 infections were reported over the past week, RIVM writes in their weekly update on Tuesday 28 July. That is 342 more than the number of confirmed cases reported last week and 795 more than the week before that. Hospital admissions (current or previous) due to COVID-19 were reported during the past week for 23 patients. That is 4 more than last week. 9 deaths of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patients were reported, 2 more than the week before.The number of new people who tested positive in the Netherlands continues to increase. In the GGD test lanes, the number of tests increased by almost 23,000 compared to the previous week. The percentage of positive tests remained the same as a week earlier: 1.0%. Just like last week, the reproduction number is above 1. A detailed news item about the increase can be found on their website.
  • Leiden-based pharmaceutical company Janssen Vaccines, part of the big American pharmaceutical group Johnson & Johnson, started testing a potential vaccine against the coronavirus on humans, and will test its experimental corona vaccine on humans in the Netherlands, probably as early as September, the company said on Monday.The first tests will be done on 1,045 healthy adults in the United States and Belgium. If all goes well, testing will be expanded to the Netherlands, Spain and Germany in September, research leader Hanneke Schuitemaker said to Nieuwsuur. Parent company Jonson & Johnson initially expected that the so called clinical trial phase will only start in September, but a successful preclinical phase accelerated the development of the vaccine.The clinical phase will mainly test whether the vaccine is safe and what the possible side effects are. The actual effect of the vaccine will only be tested at a later stage, Johan van Hoof, head of Janssen’s vaccine program said to Flemish broadcaster VRT. “We hope to start that phase in September,” he said. “Then a lot more people will be recruited and then we’ll really see if the vaccine really protects against the virus, or prevents a serious illness caused by the virus.”

    The expanded testing in September will focus on whether smaller doses of the vaccine are also effective, Dutch virologist Schuitemaker said to Nieuwsuur. “In the study that has now started, participants who get two vaccinations receive the doses eight weeks apart. We think that this will give the best immune response. In September we will see whether it is possible with less vaccine and whether that interval can also be shorter.”

    If all goes well, Janssen thinks the vaccine could be ready in the first half of 2021. This puts the Leiden-based pharmaceutical behind four other companies that are already in phase 3 of testing, in which the potential vaccine is administered to much larger groups of people. The Dutch government, with three other European countries, ordered 3 million vaccines from one of these companies, AstraZeneca, who hope to have the first vaccines ready by the end of this year.

    They are also discussing possible orders with Janssen, Schuitemaker said. “No reservations have been made with us yet. The US government is investing in our development process, so we may give something back, but we will produce a billion vaccines by the end of 2021, more than we will put away there. We are making a vaccine to make available to the world.”

  • The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs has immediately changed the travel advice for the city of Barcelona from code yellow to orange, which means that all but essential trips to the region are strongly discouraged. The essential-trips-only travel advice also applies to the suburbs around Barcelona.”If you’re in this area now, think about ending your stay early,” the ministry said. Dutch travelers returning from the Barcelona region are also urgently advised to quarantine at home for two weeks and monitor their health.Antwerp in Belgium also implemented extra measures against the spread of SARS-CoV-2. The province is home to half of all coronavirus infections in Belgium, NOS reports. “The epidemiological situation unfortunately forces us to take additional appropriate measures on top of the additional measures taken by the National Security Council,” provincial director Cathy Berx said.

    A curfew will apply in the province – everyone must be at home between 11:30 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. Everyone aged 12 or older must wear a face mask in public spaces and in areas where social distancing is impossible. The catering industry must close by 11:00 p.m. at the latest. Individual contact sports are prohibited, as are team sports for athletes aged 18 or older. working from home is mandatory unless it is impossible. Events are canceled and fitness centers and banquet halls are closed.

    “Partying is absolutely forbidden,” Berx said. “Don’t leave the city to party elsewhere. Conversely, we really recommend that people not come to the Antwerp region for the sake of your own health.”

  • Thousands of children are going to school this summer, during their vacation. This is how they can get rid of the learning gap that was caused by the corona crisis. Although it is not yet certain whether summer schools are actually effective.School leaders estimate that the performance of 16% of children has declined due to the school closures, which is mostly in language, math and reading. The Ministry of Education has made 244 million euros available to work on this. Schools spend this money on summer programs, but also extra lessons in the fall or weekend.Many summer schools have seen registrations rise considerably this year. For example in Almere, where the number of registrations has doubled, from 250 to 508 students. “As a result, we now teach at three locations in Almere, there is a lot of interest,” says Benny Velthuis of the Almeerse Scholen Groep.

    The number of registrations is also increasing in Rotterdam, Zaandam and Eindhoven. Cities such as Hoorn and Enschede have started summer schools for the first time. 441 elementary and 75 secondary schools applied for a subsidy for a special summer program, which allows children to attend a summer school for free.

  • Of the tens of thousands of money laundering reports from banks every year, only very few lead to criminal cases, Trouw writes on 27 July. To combat money laundering, banks are required to report any unusual transactions they come across to their customers.The Public Prosecution Service confirms that it is not tracked how many of these suspicious transactions lead to criminal cases, but that it concerns a few dozen in recent years. That low number would be because the quality of the reports is low and because a lot of research is still needed after a report, says Brigitte Unger, Utrecht professor and authority on money laundering.”A suspicious transaction is not yet a suspicion,” says the Public Prosecution Service. “However, all reports of suspicious transactions are useful. Even if something does not immediately lead to suspicion, at some point the information can help us further.”

    Banks have been repeatedly criticized in recent years for not doing enough to detect money laundering, and have now set up departments to detect money laundering, but in September 2019 the Dutch Banking Association (NVB) reported that too many criminal transactions remain out of the sight of banks and that there is therefore a need for better cooperation.

    In order to ensure that more of the tens of thousands of annual reports lead to actual investigations, the quality of those reports will first have to increase, says Professor Unger. Only then can the Public Prosecution Service trust that it really pays to invest time.

  • The ANWB wants employers to focus on telework even after the corona crisis. According to the union, the majority of the Dutch also want to work from home after the pandemic, the interest group says on Monday on the basis of a survey .60% of the approximately two thousand Dutch respondents say they want to work from home two or more days a week after the corona crisis. One fifth of the respondents would like to come back to the office five days a week.The union also notes that the large amount of home workers means fewer traffic jams during rush hour. However, the traffic intensity on the roads is again at the same level as before the corona crisis. According to ANWB, an incentive to work from home is a good way to limit traffic jams.
  • The sale of bicycles does benefit from the new normal, with consumers taking the bicycle more often because of health and the environment. Despite the lockdowns, European market leader Accell saw turnover rise in the first half of the year, mainly thanks to the month of June in which more than 50% more was spent on bicycles and accessories.The bicycle repairer reported this on Friday when the half-year figures were presented. “The pandemic has sparked interest among consumers and governments across Europe as an alternative to healthy, safe and green mobility,” said CEO Ton Anbeek.The maker of Batavus, Koga, Raleigh, Sparta and Babboe, among others, expects to benefit from this trend for the time being. In the short term, Accell, like all companies, has an up-and-coming look at the outlook, as much depends on how the corona virus develops.Sales for the first six months of the year were 4% higher at EUR 677 million. The profit decreased, by about 10 million euros. According to financial manager Ruben Baldew, this is because Accell earned less per bicycle. “Costs were higher, partly because factories were down,” said the CFO. “Also, when many stores were closed due to lockdowns, we sold discounted bikes in stores that were open.”

Update on Dujat & Members

  • Yesterday, we sent out the invitations for our Tax & Investment Seminar/Webinar with Loyens & Loeff and NFIA on 1 September. We will welcome a very small group at the office of Loyens & Loeff in Amsterdam, and host it as a webinar for those who would like to join online.We advise to register soon if you are interested in live attendance. We look forward to seeing you there!
  • 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)

蘭日貿易連盟 | www.dujat.nl

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Sources: FDNOSNu.nlTrouwRIVMJapanTodayMainichiKyodo NewsJapanTimes