Weekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 32, 2020

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Various types of masks are displayed at a museum run by the municipal government of Urahoro, Hokkaido. -KYODO

Update on Japan

  • The Tokyo metropolitan government on Tuesday saw 309 new cases of the novel coronavirus, an official said, amid growing concerns over a resurgence of infections. Of the total, 193 or 62% are in their 20s and 30s. The latest figure for the capital comes a day after 258 new cases were confirmed.The daily figures announced by local governments reflect the most recent totals reported by health authorities and medical institutions. Tokyo has requested that karaoke venues and establishments serving alcohol close by 22:00, which came into effect on Monday and will continue through the end of August, to mitigate the spread of the virus.
  • The Japanese government will allow the re-entry of some foreign nationals with residence status from 5 August. Japan currently denies entry of foreigners from 146 countries and regions as part of anti-coronavirus measures. Foreign residents are also barred from re-entering Japan once they leave the country, unless there are special circumstances.But the government now says it will grant re-entry to foreign people with certain residency statuses, on condition that they comply with requirements such as taking a PCR coronavirus test. Those eligible include international students, technical trainees and company employees stationed in Japan. They have to have temporarily left Japan before the entry restrictions were put in place.

    Japan has already agreed with Vietnam and Thailand to allow businesspeople to resume visits between the countries and has started accepting long-stay visa applications. Arrivals of those people in Japan are expected in August. For more information on re-entry, we refer to the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.

  • 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.

  • A number of museums across Japan have started collecting materials related to the coronavirus pandemic, such as face masks and fliers, to keep track of everyday life during the outbreak and pass on as a legacy to future generations.The move comes as museums realize they have hardly any record of the Spanish flu epidemic, which caused an estimated 20 million to 50 million deaths worldwide roughly 100 years ago.

    In the Hokkaido town of Urahoro, local residents have donated about 200 items to a public museum in response to a request in February. The items include a flier informing residents of the cancelation of a festival, coupons for takeout meals and cloth face masks distributed by the central government

    “Our daily lives will be part of history. We’d like to collect as many items as possible before they are thrown away,” said Makoto Mochida, the 47-year-old curator at the town museum on the northernmost main island.

    “When we look back on this era in the future, those materials will help us objectively examine it,” he said. In the western Japan city of Suita, a museum displays medical gowns and face shields to protect against the virus and a photo showing a long line of people at a drug store to purchase face masks.

    “We would like to record what was happening (during the pandemic) and provide ways for future generations to learn about the current era,” said Kenji Saotome, the 46-year-old curator at Suita City Museum.

    The National Diet Library in Tokyo archives virus-related online data of public offices. The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum at Waseda University in Tokyo has been asking theaters and drama groups to donate leaflets and scripts of the plays that were canceled or suspended due to the pandemic.

    Akihiro Morihara, a 54-year-old senior official at the Yamanashi Prefectural Museum, which also collects materials related to the pandemic, said, “If there had been records of the Spanish flu at the grassroots level, they might have provided a clue as to how to combat the current infection. Disasters and epidemics repeatedly occur, but people soon forget them. We would like to create opportunities to look back on the current era through exhibitions.”

  • Boeing and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) have signed an agreement to support upgrades to Japan’s F-15J fleet. The contract is part of a larger $4.5 billion modernization program, announced by the U.S. Government in October 2019. The upgrades will introduce state-of-the-art electronic warfare and weapons, with an all-new advanced cockpit system delivering pilots with enhanced situational awareness.Under the agreement, Boeing will provide MHI with retrofit drawings, ground support equipment and technical publications for the upgrade of the first two F-15J aircraft to the Japan Super Interceptor configuration.

    Boeing has partnered with MHI in the defense arena since the 1950s. MHI produced under license the current Japan F-15J fleet of over 200 aircraft between 1980 and 2000, and will serve as prime contractor for the upgrade. Sojitz Corp, a trading company that works with Boeing’s team in Japan, will support this effort.

    “Through this agreement, Boeing is honored to further our long-standing tradition of support for Japan’s Ministry of Defense, the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, and MHI,” said Boeing Japan President Will Shaffer. “These upgrades will deliver critical capability for national and collective self-defense, in which the F-15J plays a key role. At the same time, they will provide MHI and our partners in Japan’s aerospace defense industry with an opportunity to enhance their own extensive engineering capabilities.”

    This DCS contract lays the foundation of the modernization program. MHI will develop the detailed modification plan for the jets and prepare the facilities and workforce for the induction and upgrade of up to 98 aircraft beginning in 2022.

  • The Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) will help local companies export made-in-Japan refined crafts including stationery, furniture and accessories through online business meetings with overseas buyers amid the coronavirus pandemic.JETRO has picked 519 items by 121 producers for this year’s Takumi Next project aimed at supporting Japanese craftsmen’s forays into markets abroad. Takumi means artisan in Japanese. They established an online system by which crafts producers can access buyers and seek advice from experts in reaching out to overseas markets. It will also create video clips to promote the products on social media such as Instagram.

    The items include textiles, wood crafts, glassware, leather goods, metalwork, ceramics and washi paper products. The organization will launch online sales negotiations this month with 17 e-commerce buyers from such countries and regions as France, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the United States, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

    After deals are reached, the Japanese products are expected to be sold via the e-commerce buyers’ websites and pop-up stores, according to JETRO. “This fiscal year, we’ve taken advantage of the coronavirus pandemic and set up the platform, which will connect producers across the country,” said Emi Teshima, director of the organization’s Digital Promotion Division and who is in charge of the project.

    “We’ll support their overseas expansion in terms of management, sales and public relations,” she said. The Takumi project started last year to promote sophisticated Japanese products made with traditional techniques and in rich cultural contexts, with JETRO endorsing 260 products by 101 companies for the first year. All of them had to negotiate with buyers face-to-face.

    In fiscal 2019 that ended in March, a total of 133 business deals were expected to be struck between the producers and buyers. This year, around 180 crafts producers applied for the project and the 121 companies from 36 prefectures whose items fit the image of “Japan luxury” were selected, according to JETRO.

    JETRO will also form a community of crafts makers on a social media platform so they can collaborate to develop new products and discuss countermeasures when mutual issues emerge.

Jaap van Dissel, head of public health agency RIVM, explains there is no reason to introduce a face mask obligation nationally, at a press con., Wednesday 30 July

Update on the Netherlands

  • 2,588 new COVID-19 infections were reported over the past week, RIVM reports in their weekly update, on Tuesday 4 August. Hospital admissions due to COVID-19 were reported during the past week for 44 patients. 6 deaths of COVID-19 patients were reported, 3 less than the week before.The number of new people who tested positive in the Netherlands has almost doubled compared to the previous week. Approximately 10,000 fewer people have been tested in the GGD test lanes in the past week compared to the week before that. The percentage of positive tests in the Netherlands increased this week from 1.1% in the week of 20 July to 2.3% in the week of 27 July. Just like last week, the reproduction number is above 1.
  • Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Minister Hugo de Jonge of Public Health will hold a press conference on Thursday evening 19:00, to update Netherlands residents on the state of affairs around the coronavirus and the increasing number of infections, government information service RVD announced on Tuesday.During the press conference, they will point out the general situation, zoom in on the situation in certain regions and, if deemed necessary, announce additional, regional support measures,” a spokesperson for the Ministry of Public Health, Welfare and Sports said. Exactly what this could entail, is not yet clear. The last press conference was held on Wednesday, 24 June.
  • Amsterdam and Rotterdam are putting up signs to inform residents and visitors where face masks will be mandatory from Wednesday 5 August. The obligation to wear a mask applies to everyone aged 13 or older, in certain crowded areas in both municipalities. The fine for violating the rule will be 95 euros, the municipalities announced on Tuesday.The measure will be introduced in phases, starting on 5 August in Amsterdam’s Red Light District, the Kalverstraat and the Nieuwendijk shopping streets, the Plein ’40 -’45 and the Albert Cuypstraat markets.

    The mask rule is only for people on the streets and in shops, and does not apply to catering facilities, museums, casinos, gyms, private homes, offices or sex work locations. The area may be expanded in the future, and the city said it will re-evaluate the effectiveness of the pilot program in three to four weeks. Shops in these areas will be given posters regarding the mask obligation to put up in their stores. During busy weekends, extra workers will be on the streets to remind people to wear masks and hand out free masks to those who do not have one.

    In Rotterdam, the mask obligation applies to shopping areas in the city center, including Lijnbaan, Meent, Nieuwe Binnenwegplein and Coolsingel, at the markets in Delfshaven, Afrikaanderwijk, and Binnerotte, and the roofed shopping centers Alexandrium and Zuidplein. The measure applies from 6:00 in the morning to 22:00 daily. For the markets, the mask obligation only applies on market days. City officials will be handing out free non-medical masks at these locations on Wednesday.

    The mask obligations do not apply to places like gyms, restaurants and museums, as national measures already apply in these places aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus. Both municipalities stressed that the mask obligation comes on top of – and not instead of – measures already in place, such as social distancing and the instruction to avoid crowds.

    Last week, The Cabinet of the Netherlands already said not to make wearing masks in public a national obligation, but that locally, different rules could be implemented experimentally by the country’s 25 different regional security councils.

    Ahmed Aboutaleb, mayor of Rotterdam and chairman of Veiligheidsregio Rotterdam-Rijnmond, is pleased with this experiment. “In my view, masks can increase the urgency in some places, in addition to the golden rule of keeping 1.5 meters apart, hygiene measures and enforcement. We are ready to start the experiment and hope it helps people to stay safe in the city and keep enough distance from each other.”

  • The GGD tested nearly 102,000 people in the Netherlands for the corona virus in the past week. That is about ten thousand less than last week, according to a weekly update of the GGD-GHOR on Monday. It is the first time since the beginning of July that the number of corona tests per week has decreased.The GGD does not know why the number of tests has now decreased. “It may be that people were scared by the waiting time, which increased because many more people suddenly wanted to be tested and the GGDs had to scale up,” says public health director Sjaak de Gouw of the GGD-GHOR Monday in NPO Radio 1- program News & Co. In a month, the number of people who had a weekly test for the coronavirus increased from approximately 65,000 to 100,000 people.

    The holiday can also play a role, he says. “We had the impression that people got tested before they went on vacation to make sure they didn’t have it.”

    However, De Gouw does not know the exact causes. “We regularly ask people about their willingness to get tested, but of the people who don’t call us, we can’t figure out why they don’t,” he says.

    In the last two weeks, the daily number of detected infections rose steadily. Monday is the fifth consecutive day that more than three hundred people tested positive for the coronavirus.

  • Retail turnover was 9.8% higher in June this year compared to June 2019, Statistics Netherlands reports. This is the largest growth since the start of the publication of shopping day-adjusted figures in 2005. Sales volume was 7.2% higher. Both the food sector and the non-food sector realized higher turnover. In addition, online turnover was over 45% more.On the other hand, clothing stores and the shoe and leather goods stores have been suffering heavy sales losses for months. Despite the second quarter’s record sales, retailers are less optimistic about the third quarter, the CBS said.
  • Booking.com announced that it has to cut about a quarter of its worldwide jobs due to the coronavirus crisis. That means that some 4 thousand to 5 thousand of the total 17,500 jobs will disappear. What this means for the around 6 thousand people working for Booking.com in Amsterdam, is not yet clear.”Unfortunately, due to the corona crisis, like many other travel organizations we have to take the very difficult step of shrinking our global workforce with the intention that this will affect up to 25% of the global workforce,” a spokesperson for Booking.com said to NOS. The company saw bookings fall by 85% in April.

    The American accommodation booking site is one of the largest employers in Amsterdam. Around 6 thousand people work at the Booking.com head office and ten other offices in the Dutch capital. The spokesperson could not tell NOS how the layoffs would affect its Dutch workers.

    Booking.com made use of the government’s NOW regulation and received 64.5 million euros in subsidy so it could continue to pay its workers in the Netherlands. The spokesperson told NOS that without this NOW regulation, the number of employees affected by this reorganization would be much higher.

  • Potentially thousands of ANVR travel vouchers for “package holidays” cancelled due to the coronavirus crisis are not guaranteed if the travel organization goes bankrupt during the term of the voucher, the Consumentenbond warned on Tuesday. The fund meant to guarantee that customers’ holidays will still be paid for only covers cancelled bookings made before 16 March, De Telegraaf reported.Because travel agencies did not have sufficient cash to refund all holidays cancelled due to the pandemic, travel agencies’ umbrella organization ANVR, guarantee fund SGR and the Ministry of Economic Affairs agreed that the agencies could give customers vouchers instead of the refund they are legally entitled to. The SGR would guarantee this voucher, to ensure that the customer’s replacement holiday is paid for.

    But according to consumers’ association Concumentenbond, this only applies to bookings made before 16 March. ANVR CEO Frank Oostdam confirmed this to the Telegraaf. “This was not known to all our members, so an unknown number of vouchers for bookings made after mid-March are not guaranteed,” he said.

    Figures from the Ministry of Economic Affairs showed that some 400 million euros of ‘covered’ ANVR vouchers have not yet been claimed, despite holidays being possible in most of Europe since June.

Update on Dujat & Members

  • Yesterday, the invitations were sent for the Dujat & Asunaro Golf Tournament on 26 September. Beginners who would like to learn golf, or advanced players who would like to join the tournament are all invited to register. Please contact us if you missed the invitation. We look forward to welcoming 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

Stroombaan 10 | 1181 VX Amstelveen | The Netherlands

Sources: CBSNOSNu.nlAdRIVMTelegraafJapanTodayKyodo NewsNHKJapanTimes