Weekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 33, 2020

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Abe during a press conference in Nagasaki on Sunday 9 August.

Update on Japan

  • On Monday 10 August, the Tokyo metropolitan government reported 197 new cases of the novel coronavirus, down from the 331 infections confirmed the previous day. It was the first time since 27 July that the figure had dropped below 200, officials said. Of the total, 110, or 56%, are in their 20s and 30s. Monday’s figure brings the cumulative total for Tokyo to 16,064, which increased with an additional 188 infections on Tuesday, the metropolitan government said.

    Across Japan, 761 cases were reported, bringing the nationwide total to over 50,000, including about 700 from the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined in Yokohama in February. In other prefectures, Osaka reported 123 new cases, Aichi Prefecture 102, Okinawa 52, Saitama 42, Chiba 41, Kanagawa 38, Hyogo 26, Hokkaido 13 and Mie Prefecture 11.

    In Tokyo, average daily new infections over the last seven days stood at 335.9, according to the city government, which has raised its own alert for the pandemic to the highest of four levels last week, meaning “infections are spreading.” Meanwhile, the number of patients in the capital with severe symptoms increased to 24 from 23 the previous day, according to the metropolitan government.

    The city has requested residents to refrain from travel or returning to their hometowns for the Bon holiday season, in order to prevent the spread of the virus. It has also requested karaoke venues and establishments serving alcohol to close by 10 p.m., which came into effect last week and will continue through the end of August.

  • Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo says he will work to prevent the elderly and other vulnerable people from contracting the coronavirus to avoid declaring another state of emergency. Abe held a news conference in Nagasaki on Sunday after attending the Peace Memorial Ceremony to remember the victims of the atomic bomb.

    He said that while the number of new cases has been rising, not many patients have been hospitalized, and not many are in serious condition. There is also a sufficient number of hospital beds.

    He said the pandemic is expected to have a bigger impact on Japan’s economy than the 2008 global financial crisis did. He said the spending package totaling 1 trillion yen, or about 9.4 billion dollars, approved by the cabinet on Friday, will go toward helping small and medium-sized businesses.

    He said additional support will be considered for medical organizations, as needed. Abe said the Go To Travel campaign will continue, with the aim of establishing new, safe ways to travel in a world with the coronavirus. Under the campaign, the government helps cover costs of hotels and inns.

    The prime minister also called on people visiting their hometowns during the Bon summer holiday period to avoid risky situations, such as meals in big groups.

  • Temperatures soared across Japan on Tuesday 11 August, reaching 40.5 degrees in Isesaki, Gunma Prefecture, at 14:30. It was the highest temperature recorded in Japan so far this year as intense heat sent the mercury up in western and eastern Japan as well as the Tohoku region.

    Tokyo recorded 37.3 degrees at 14:00. Elsewhere, the temperature rose to 40.4 degrees in Hatoyama, Saitama Prefecture, 39.2 degrees in Koga, Ibaraki Prefecture and 38.9 degrees in Toyama City, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

    The agency issued a warning over heatstroke, urging people to drink at least one glass of water every hour, avoid working or being outdoors for too long and use air-conditioning while sleeping at night. It also cautioned people about removing masks while outside, urging them to be at least two meters away from anyone else when they do so.

  • A day after Chinese authorities arrested a Hong Kong pro-democracy media tycoon, prominent activist and a handful of others in a sweeping crackdown on dissent, Japan’s top government spokesman on Tuesday reiterated Tokyo’s grave concern about turmoil in the city but did not ramp up pressure over the issue, instead sticking to well-worn diplomatic language.

    At a news conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga did not directly address a question about the arrests of Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai, activist Agnes Chow and the others in one of the most massive crackdowns since Beijing imposed a security law on the city. Instead, Suga merely repeated the government’s boilerplate statement that Tokyo remains “gravely concerned” about the situation in Hong Kong, which he said Japan regards as a “very important partner” in terms of economic and personal exchanges.

    The 23-year-old Chow, who speaks fluent Japanese and is popular in Japan, was among a group of prominent pro-democracy activists who earlier this year urged Tokyo to rethink a planned visit to the country by Chinese President Xi Jinping. The visit was originally set for March but has been delayed indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    News of her arrest triggered a rush of anger on social media Tuesday, with scores of people in Japan and worldwide voicing their support for the pro-democracy leader on Twitter that saw the hashtag #FreeAgnes trend for much of the day.

    Anchorperson-turned journalist Jun Hori, who had a remote interview with the 23-year-old activist back in May this year, tweeted along with the hashtag and a video of the interview, “She spoke of the importance of raising voices, out of concern for the future of Japan. This time we should stand up for Ms. Chow and for those who have continued to raise their voices in Hong Kong.”

    Japan has found itself in a difficult position responding to the Hong Kong protests and the national security law as it seeks to strike a balance between its economic relationship with China and its growing concerns over security and rights issues. At the Tuesday news conference, Suga said that Tokyo has repeatedly conveyed its position on maintaining the “one country, two systems” principle to its Chinese counterparts.

  • Japan’s minister in charge of the coronavirus response has asked prefectural governors to work together to fight the virus. Nishimura Yasutoshi held a teleconference with the governors on Tuesday. He explained the four-stage index proposed by a panel of experts last week.

    The approach would use six criteria, including case numbers and the percentage of coronavirus tests that come back positive. The panel says many parts of the country are at stage two, meaning they are seeing a gradual spread.

    Nishimura said he expects local authorities to use the index as a yardstick to assess their situation, and take proactive steps to meet local needs. He said he hopes to work together with localities and quickly share information.The minister said the nationwide situation is in a crucial phase. He stressed the need to prevent infections among the elderly, and to secure beds for patients with serious conditions.

    Tokushima Governor Iizumi Kamon, who chairs the National Governors’ Association, said paying compensation to businesses is essential to making governors’ requests to close effective. He asked Nishimura to provide additional subsidies.

    Iizumi also called for legal measures to put pressure on businesses that reject governors’ requests or refuse to cooperate in contact tracing. Such measures could include penalties on such businesses.

  • Japan’s male smoking rate fell below 30% for the first time in 2019, slipping to 28.8%, down 2.3% points from the previous study in 2016, according to a health ministry survey. The national livelihood survey, conducted every three years by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, found that the proportion of women who smoke fell 0.7 point to 8.8% in 2019.Among age groups, those in their 20s marked the largest decrease, for both men and women, with the proportion of men smoking falling by 4.1 percentage points to 27% and the female smokers’ rate dropping 1.9 points to 8.3%. Men and women in their 40s smoked the most, with rates of 37.6% and 13.4%, respectively. Japan’s male smoking rate has been on the decline since hitting 48.4% in 2001.

    Growing awareness of the effects of smoking on health is likely to be a key driver of the downward trend. In April, a law banning people from smoking indoors in principle at restaurants, offices, hotel lobbies and other places in Japan open to the general public, also came into effect. The survey of people aged 20 or over counted as smokers those who smoke “everyday” or “sometimes.”

  • Japan will buy 120 million doses of AstraZeneca Plc’s experimental COVID-19 vaccine from early next year, its health minister said on Friday 7 August, adding that domestic pharmaceutical firms would help in supplying the drug.

    The agreement with the British drugmaker comes after Japan announced a deal last week to buy 120 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate developed by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE. “I understand one or two doses are effective per person,” Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told reporters. “If each person receives two injections, this would cover 60 million people.”

    Japan is the latest country to sign up for AstraZeneca’s vaccine, known as AZD1222, which is under development in partnership with the University of Oxford. The pharmaceutical firm has been in talks with Russia, Brazil and others about supply deals for its potential vaccine.

    In a statement, AstraZeneca said it would produce the vaccine substance in Japan with JCR Pharmaceuticals Co, while also importing additional substance from overseas. Daiichi Sankyo Ltd, Daiichi Sankyo Biotech Co, Meiji Seika Pharma Co and KM Biologics Co will support supply in Japan, the company said.

    As Japan procures vaccines from abroad, it is also developing its own vaccine for the novel coronavirus, with AnGes Inc and Osaka University working on a DNA vaccine, while Shionogi & Co is working on a recombinant protein type. The University of Tokyo and Daiichi Sankyo are developing an mRNA version.

    There are currently no approved vaccines or treatments for the illness caused by the new coronavirus, but about a dozen vaccines from more than 100 candidates globally are being tested in humans.

Jaap van Dissel, head of public health agency RIVM, at the technical briefing on Tuesday 7 August.

Update on the Netherlands

  • 2,588 new COVID-19 infections were reported over the past week. That is 1,259 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 44 patients. That is 21 more than last week. 6 deaths of laboratory-confirmed 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 as last week, the reproduction number is above 1.

    On Tuesday afternoon, Jaap van Dissel spoke on behalf of the RIVM at a technical briefing about corona together with GGD in the House of Representatives. Van Dissel said that youngsters continue to account for the bulk of new infections and that this would explain the low hospitalisation rate because they tend to experience milder symptoms.

    There has also been recent concern about the impact of good ventilation and air conditioning systems on the spread of the virus, particularly with autumn school terms poised to start soon. Labour leader Lodewijk Asscher asked about what to do about schools which do not meet the proper requirements. Van Dissel said: “The scientific advice would be to make sure you meet the building requirements. And in terms of enforcement, I would refer to the policy.”

    Van Dissel also said he is not in favour of making face masks mandatory in schools, as has been debated in Germany. “What we have to do is to prevent infections spreading at family gatherings,” he said. “That total has to go down, because we want to give children the opportunity to go to school.”

    Also mentioned was that this week, the RIVM is issuing advice on self-quarantine. This could possibly be shortened from fourteen to ten days, but that is still uncertain, emphasized Van Dissel. RIVM does not want to draw conclusions too quickly. “However, we do see that 91% of Dutch people get sick within ten days, after a possible infection. Then you can ask whether those last four days of self-quarantine are still necessary enough to rule out infections.” The briefing (in Dutch) can be viewed here.

  • Last week on Thursday 6 August, Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Minister of Health Hugo de Jonge spoke at a press conference on the state of the coronavirus pandemic in the Netherlands. This included the introduction of a few extra measures, and an extra warning to keep a physical distance from others, to stay home with health complaints, and to get tested when health symptoms arise.When visiting a catering establishment, you will be asked whether you want to enter your name and contact details. This allows the GGD to contact you quickly if an infection is found around that catering establishment. In addition,you have to reserve a place inside and outside, undergo a health check and be assigned a permanent place.

    If the GGD discovers that there is an infection at a recreational institution such as a catering company, cinema, amusement park, theater or museum, this institution will be closed by the safety region for a maximum of fourteen days.

    Because of the large regional differences, with more infections in the Randstad and very few in the northeastern provinces, Rutte said the Cabinet will rely on the country’s mayors and the 25 regional security offices to build up new restrictions as they see fit. For example, they can limit the opening hours of the catering industry, introduce a face mask obligation, as is already the case in parts of Amsterdam and Rotterdam, or close locations such as parks, shopping centers or parking facilities.

    Lastly, travelers coming from risk areas (countries with an orange travel advice) must be quarantined for fourteen days when they return home. They already had to, but now they get a phone call from the GGD to remind them and check if they are really at home. Travelers will also be able to get tested at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, and later other airports, but no one will be forced to get tested regardless of their departure country. However, even with a negative test, travelers still have to quarantine for fourteen days, because the infection may still become active after the test. 

  • On Friday 7 August, the day after the press conference, GGD Amsterdam and GGD Rotterdam said to limit the source and contact investigation of corona patients. Due to the high number of infections in the regions, there are insufficient employees available to fully conduct the source and contact investigations.”In consultation with the RIVM, we have today started an adapted source and contact investigation. This means that we focus on risk groups and risk situations. All positives will of course be called, only a shorter and less extensive conversation will be held”, said a spokesman for the GGD in Amsterdam.

    Amsterdam was the first to report that it will stop calling contacts. Infected people must now do this themselves, according to a press release. The GGD Rotterdam-Rijnmond followed Amsterdam’s example the same afternoon. There are also insufficient employees available there. Also nationally, the GGDs are reaching the limits of their capacity. 

    Various party leaders in The Hague reacted critically to the decision, stating their disbelief about the announcement which came a day after Prime Minister Rutte saying at a press conference that contact investigation would be intensified.  

  • Stores in shopping areas in Rotterdam and Amsterdam saw “substantially” fewer customers over the past days, compared to the same period last week, Detailhandel Nederland, umbrella organization for retailers, said to AD after speaking to shopkeepers. According to the organization this is not only due to the heatwave, but also because of the obligation to wear a face mask in some public spaces that the two cities implemented last week.

    Detailhandel Nederland does not have any hard figures yet, but said that shops reported fewer customers. “The obligation to wear a mask seems to keep people away,” director Hester Duursema said to AD. “It seems that people only go to the store when they need really urgent supplies.” Clothing- and shoe stores in particular are suffering from this, she said.

    The retailers’ organization also raised concerns about the enforcement of the mask obligation. “Shopkeepers and employees are trained to be hospitable, not to be a cop. Moreover, many shopkeepers don’t feel comfortable to enter into a conversation with a customer, which is understandable given the reactions of some customers,” Duursema said. “We have also received a first report about aggression around face masks in the shops. We assume that more will follow. What makes it complicated is that at first it was said that masks make no sense and now they might make sense after all. That is difficult to explain to customers.”

    While the masks experiment in Amsterdam and Rotterdam is still in its early stages, Detailhandel Nederland is already against a national introduction of this measure. “A national measure would be really disproportionate. You cannot compare a shopping area in Friesland with the center of Rotterdam,” Duursema said.

  • Catering companies must destroy the contact details of guests, which the companies have been obliged to request since Monday, after fourteen days. That is what industry association Koninklijke Horeca Nederland (KHN) says against NU.nl.

    Since Monday, hospitality entrepreneurs are obliged to request the telephone number and e-mail address of all their guests. As a result, source and contact research can be carried out if one of the guests later turns out to be infected with the corona virus.

    The companies must destroy this data after fourteen days, the incubation period for the virus. This has been unclear in recent days, after Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced the obligation last Thursday.

    The new measure obliges entrepreneurs to request contact information, but there is no obligation for guests to actually provide their data. As a result, KHN expects few irritated reactions from guests. Companies that have already implemented the measure noticed that visitors were understanding.

    KHN is not happy with the fact that hotels, restaurants and cafes have to ask for contact details as of today, because it creates red tape. The professional group also has the idea that the reduced support for the cabinet’s corona measures is now being passed on exclusively to the catering industry.

    Some catering entrepreneurs also ask when registering contact details whether the guests want to receive commercial communications from the relevant company. The interest group is not happy about that. “We don’t think that’s a good idea. It’s against the obligation to register the contact details only for contact investigation and to destroy them after fourteen days,” said a KHN spokesperson.

  • The umbrella organization OV-NL said that all city and regional buses and trams in the Netherlands will be equipped with special so-called ‘cough screens’ for drivers. As a result, passengers can board the front again and fare dodging can be tackled better.

    This concerns all six thousand city and regional buses in the Netherlands. It was announced in a press release on Monday that it is still being investigated whether neighborhood buses can be added to this. The screens can also introduce one-way traffic in the vehicles: getting in at the front and getting out in the back.

    OV-NL chairman Pedro Peters told De Telegraaf that since the corona crisis, about 20% of travelers have made use of public transport without a ticket. “That’s because the front door remains closed to protect the driver. Normally, the percentage is 1 to 2%.” According to Peters, drivers should start addressing passengers again when this happens. Getting into the back made this more difficult.

    Bus drivers will also ventilate their vehicle at every stop by opening all doors. According to Peters, bus drivers do not want to wear a face mask all day long. With the use of a cough screen and more ventilation this problem has been solved.

    Masks are still mandatory for passengers. “Bus drivers can – now that people board the front – warn boarding travelers without a mask that they are in violation.” The first buses and trams with the screens should start running at the beginning of September. According to OV-NL, it will take two months before all cough screens are installed.

  • Hedwig Waltmans-Molier, the wife of Dutch ambassador Jan Waltmans in Beirut and employee of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who was seriously injured in the explosion in the Lebanese capital on Tuesday 4 August, died of her injuries on Saturday at the age of 55. This was reported by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

    Waltmans-Molier worked as HR partner within the ministry’s HR department, working from both The Hague and Beirut. Ministers Stef Blok (Foreign Affairs) and Sigrid Kaag (Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation) have expressed their condolences to the family for the loss.

    “We are deeply saddened by the far too early death of our colleague Hedwig Waltmans-Molier in the heavy explosion in Beirut. She was loved in our organization and she is missed. Her death is a loss for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and for our country.” The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has opened an online condolence register.

Update on Dujat & Members

  • As of this month, a new member has joined our network: Baker & McKenzie Amsterdam NV. We are pleased to welcome them at Dujat.
  • Last week the invitations were sent for the Dujat & Asunaro Golf Tournament on Saturday 26 September, where advanced golf players as well as beginners are welcome to join. We are pleased to announce many people have already registered, and it is still possible to apply. If you missed the invitation, please contact us.
  • 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.

The weather has been extremely hot in Japan, but we are also experiencing a heatwave in the Netherlands. We hope you all stay cool and hydrated!

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: NOSNu.nlAdRIVMTelegraafJapanTodayKyodo NewsNHKJapanTimes