Weekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 36, 2020

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Abe Shinzo steps down citing health problems (view video here)

Update on Japan

  • On Tuesday 1 September Tokyo confirmed 170 additional coronavirus infections, bringing the cumulative total in the capital to 20,987. The single-day increase compares with 100 cases reported on Monday and 148 on Sunday, which was a lower than the usual daily number of new infections last month. On Sunday Japan counted a total of around 600 additional cases.Tokyo, with a population of 14 million, has kept its alert for the coronavirus pandemic at the highest of four levels, meaning “infections are spreading.”

    In an effort to stem the spread, Gov. Yuriko Koike said Thursday that Tokyo will extend until 15 September a request for establishments serving alcohol and karaoke venues in its 23 wards, in the heart of the capital, to shorten their business hours as many cases have spread from there. The request for such businesses outside the 23 wards to close by 10 p.m. will end Monday as scheduled.

  • Ending weeks of speculation, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced last Friday 28 August that he is stepping down due to health reasons a second time. Abe told reporters that it was “gut wrenching” to leave many of his goals unfinished. Concerns about his health began this summer and grew this month when he visited a Tokyo hospital two weeks in a row for unspecified health checkups.Abe said he will stay on as prime minister until his successor is chosen. His Liberal Democratic Party is expected to hold a party presidential election by the end of September, with Diet lawmakers and three representatives from each of the 47 local chapters voting, but not rank-and-file party members.

    The race to succeed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe kicked off informally on Saturday, with several contenders announcing their plans to stand, including party policy chief Fumio Kishida, a mild-mannered former foreign minister considered Abe’s personal choice for successor, and ex-defense minister Shigeru Ishiba, who is seen as more popular with voters but commands less party support than some other candidates.

    Other possible candidates include powerful chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga, viewed by many as a frontrunner, and current defense minister Taro Kono, a social-media-savvy former foreign minister who is seen as something of a long shot.

    One woman is among those expected to stand so far: Seiko Noda, a former cabinet minister whose chances are thought to be slim. Whoever comes out on top, analysts said, little major shift in policy is expected. Media reported that Japan’s ruling party will choose the successor around 15 September.

  • The Japanese government held an annual disaster drill Tuesday 1 September based on a scenario that a massive earthquake originating in the Nankai Trough in the Pacific had rocked wide areas, but with fewer officials taking part amid the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.Regional disaster drills were also held, many likewise scaled back, although some local governments canceled the events this year to prevent the spread of the virus. The nationwide exercises are held every 1 September, or Disaster Prevention Day, which marks the anniversary of a magnitude 7.9 temblor that devastated Tokyo and its vicinity in 1923.

    “It is urgent that we supply aid while preventing the spread of the virus,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at an emergency headquarters meeting convened for the drill. “We will provide swift assistance.” In a following simulated press conference, Abe urged people to take actions that will save lives and refrain from bulk buying in order to minimize panic.

    At the practice emergency meeting, the governors of quake-hit prefectures reported damage to Cabinet members through a video link and called for the dispatch of disaster relief teams. The number of meeting participants was sharply reduced this year to prevent the spread of the virus. To attend the meeting at the prime minister’s office, Cabinet ministers walked to the venue from their residences or offices as part of the drill.

    Shizuoka Prefecture in central Japan typically hosts an annual disaster drill, but cancelled the large-scale event this year due to virus concerns. Meanwhile, Tokyo and its surrounding prefectures and cities will hold a joint drill on 1 November in Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture. The schedule had been put off from 1 September this year, when the Tokyo Paralympic games were initially due to be held.

    The country has recently been battered by numerous natural disasters. The southwestern region of Kyushu was struck by torrential rain in July, which caused deadly flooding and landslides, while Typhoon Hagibis ripped through wide areas of Japan in October last year, leaving more than 90 people dead.

  • The Japanese government said Friday it will lift coronavirus-related re-entry restrictions on foreign residents from 1 September, citing increased testing capacity at airports, after calls mounted from the expatriate community that the ban is discriminatory.Under the new policy, around 2.4 million foreigners in Japan with resident status, including permanent and non-permanent residents, business people, students and their families, can now leave Japan and be allowed back in.

    Around 29,000 foreigners who have already left Japan to countries and regions designated as areas subject to entry denial after 3 April, will also be allowed to return. Currently, re-entry of foreigners is permitted only to those who had left Japan before 3 April, even if they have resident status, except under “special exceptional circumstances,” such as the death of a family member.

    Returning residents will be required to take a polymerase chain reaction test within 72 hours before departing for Japan and provide the result to authorities upon arrival. If the test indicates they are infected with the coronavirus, they will be denied entry, according to government officials. If permitted to enter Japan, they will be required to self-isolate for two weeks to monitor their health and to refrain from using public transportation during that period, they said.

    Until the change comes into effect, Japan will continue to deny entry to all foreign nationals in principle who have recently been to any of 146 countries and regions, including the United States, China and all of Europe.

  • Japan Airlines Co has recently introduced self service check-in machines equipped with motion sensors, which enable customers to complete procedures without touching the screen, to help prevent coronavirus infection.Through the use of infrared technology, which captures finger motion, customers are able to make their selections by holding their finger 3 centimeters away from the screen. Two touchless kiosks are available at Tokyo’s Haneda airport Terminal 1 during the trial period through 15 September, JAL said.

    The device allows users to scroll through texts and press digital buttons by simply moving their fingers in front of the screen as they would do with a conventional touch panel, according to the airline, who said ground staff are available nearby for guidance.

    JAL said it will consider whether to fully introduce the touchless check-in kiosks based on user response and feedback. The device was developed by Mitsubishi Electric Information Systems Corp and Oki Electric Industry Co.

    “We will make every effort so passengers feel safe in this difficult time with the new coronavirus,” a company spokeswoman said.

    Fears about virus infection have drastically reduced demand for air travel in Japan, and JAL have said they will operate 63% of their normal domestic flight schedule for September.

  • Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday that Japan will aim to secure COVID-19 vaccinations for all citizens by the first half of 2021.Abe announced at a government meeting a set of measures against the novel coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 respiratory illness, including increasing the country’s virus testing capacity ahead of the flu season.

    With people in their 80s or older accounting for around half of those who have died from the virus in Japan, Abe told a news conference the focus should be on the elderly, as well as those who have underlying health conditions. Abe said he wanted to finalize the government’s updated pandemic response before his resignation, which he publicly announced Friday evening.

    The measures will greatly expand the country’s testing capacity to conduct mass testing on health care providers and nursing home staff, who are seeing a rise in new infections. The government will review its guidelines on recommending hospitalization of COVID-19 patients, prioritizing those with severe symptoms, and asking those with mild or no symptoms to self-isolate at home or in designated lodging facilities.

    It wants to ensure that enough hospital beds are secured for severe cases in anticipation of a scenario in which an influenza outbreak also hits Japan in the winter. Furthermore, there are plans to create a system that will allow residents to easily access the vaccines at their place of residence, alongside implementing relief measures in the event of side effects or other health problems caused by the vaccines.

    The government is looking to cover the cost of compensation that vaccine manufacturers may face if health issues occur. Vaccine purchases will be financed by reserve funds from the budget of the current fiscal year to March 2021.

  • Online crowdfunding is proving a popular way for people in Japan to support small and mid-size businesses struggling to stay afloat during the novel coronavirus pandemic.Donations, which began to increase from March, doubled in May from the previous month, according to a study by a major Japanese crowdfunding website. Amounts continue to remain high, with a total of 27.4 billion yen (€216 million) raised between January to July.

    The appeal of crowdfunding is that supporters can easily pledge small amounts, and anyone can initiate a campaign once they pass the platform’s screening. In Japan, the concept took off in 2011 after it was used to collect donations in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake.

    In February, major Japanese crowdfunding platform Campfire Inc. launched a coronavirus support program offering discounted or waivered fees to businesses experiencing financial difficulties due to the pandemic.

    Over 2,900 projects have been listed under the program to date, with a total of 7.16 billion yen collected from around 620,000 donors. Entire industries have also banded together to fundraise. In April, movie directors and others in the entertainment industry started a “Mini-Theater Aid” fund to save indie theaters across the country.

    The approximately 331 million yen collected through the crowdfunding initiative was later distributed to over 100 cinemas. But with movie theaters still limiting the number of seats they sell to around half the venue’s capacity, unfortunately the future looks bleak.

Netherlands Nutrition Centre – ‘The Wheel of Five‘, the guidelines for a healthy diet, which are not properly followed when it comes to Dutch child products, according to recent research by UNICEF.

Update on the Netherlands

  • 3,597 new COVID-19 infections were reported over the past week, RIVM wrote in their weekly update on 1 September. That is 9 more positive tests reported than the week before that. During the past week, the municipal public health services (GGDs) reported hospital admissions (current or previous) due to COVID-19 for 57 patients. That is 27 fewer than last week. 24 deaths of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patients were reported this week, 8 fewer than the week before.Over 163,000 people have been tested in the GGD test lanes in the past week, over 23,000 people more compared to the week before. At the national level, the percentage of positive tests decreased this week, dropping from 2.5% in the previous week to 2.2% this week. The reproduction number is approximately 1.
  • Rather than focus on all the things we cannot do, we should be focusing on the things we can do despite the coronavirus, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said at a press conference about the government’s approach to dealing with Covid-19 on the evening of Tuesday 1 September.The situation in the Netherlands is stable, Rutte said, in terms of new infections, hospital and intensive care admissions. “In some countries where the virus seemed to be under control, the figures have exploded,” he said. “This has to be a warning for us.”

    Unfortunately the situation is still not so bright that night clubs and discotheques can reopen their doors, Rutte said. Clubs had been told that their situation would be looked at again by 1 September. However, people in their 20s currently account for by far the most cases of coronavirus.

    “We hope that the clubs and discotheques can open again before there is a vaccine, but at the moment that is simply unwise. Too often outbreaks of infection have occurred at nightclubs in Europe,” Prime Minister Mark Rutte said. “I think it’s terrible for them. This sector is important for life in the Netherlands.”

    Health Minister Hugo de Jonge, said the research into a vaccine is progressing, and that the Netherlands could receive the first batch of vaccinations in early 2021. He also presented a pessimistic possibility, saying, “In the unfortunate case that there is no vaccine, we will have to rely on treatment methods.”

    To control things further, De Jonge said that there will be more testing locations, and that the country has purchased more of the materials needed to perform coronavirus testing. “We are investigating how we can test more quickly and more with innovative methods. Source and contact research must also continue to be carried out,” he said.

    The government said that nursing homes are better prepared to handle possible infections because the staff have access to more personal protective equipment, and they have more experience with recognizing symptoms, placing people in quarantine. “Recent research has shown that symptoms in residents in nursing homes can be difficult to recognize. We will test residents and employees weekly, and care workers will make preventive use of mouth masks,” De Jonge said.

    The quarantine rules for babies and toddlers up to the age of four will also become the same as those already in place for children between the ages of four and 12. One rule change the government cited as an example is that children under four will not be required to enter the ten-day quarantine when returning from a country where coronavirus is more prevalent. They will be allowed to attend daycare or school, just like children aged four to 12.

  • Visitors to a number of crowded areas in Amsterdam and Rotterdam will no longer have to wear a face mask from Monday. The local security regions ended this experiment on 31 August as planned, they said on Friday.Due to the weather being less hot, and the end of the main tourist season, it will likely be easier to keep 1.5 meters apart on the busiest places,” Amsterdam-Amstelland Security Region said. “The municipality will continue to monitor this and will, if necessary, implement information-driven and risk-oriented measures.”

    In Amsterdam, people were required to wear a mask on the streets and in the shops in parts of De Wallen, including the Red Light District, on the Kalverstraat and Nieuwendijk shopping streets, on Albert Cuypstraat and Plein ’40-’45. The city started fining violators of this rule this past weekend, issuing nearly 150 fines of 95 euros each.

    The mask requirement in Rotterdam covered four central shopping districts, three open-air markets, and two covered markets. This past weekend, the city also began fining people 95 euros for not wearing the masks.

    Retailers in both cities complained that they saw substantially fewer customers during the first week after the rule was introduced, though the heat could have also played a role in keeping people away from the normally-crowded shopping streets. Another study said that sales fell by 40% on shopping streets where the mask rules applied.

    The impact of the face mask obligation in both cities was going to be reviewed and studied by the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement (NSCR). “A face mask can help people be aware of their distance and to comply with the coronavirus measures. The evaluation will examine whether wearing a face mask has resulted in behavioral change,” the Rotterdam-Rijnmond Security Region said in a statement.

    The Amsterdam-Amstelland Security Region stressed that businesses and organizations need to stay vigilant and ensure that customers can keep 1.5 meters apart as well as possible. The mask obligation could be reintroduced if the city’s popular areas become too crowded again, and if the number of coronavirus infections increase.

  • Almost 75% of the food and drinks aimed at kids in Netherlands supermarkets contain too much sugar, saturated fat, calories or salt, children’s rights organization UNICEF concluded after analyzing about 2,000 such products. The vast majority of baby porridges, breakfast cereals, snacks and children’s desserts do not fit within the Netherlands Nutrition Center’s guidelines for healthy nutrition, known as the ‘Wheel of Five’, Het Parool reports.According to the Nutrition Center and UNICEF , it is the first time that children’s products have been researched on such a large scale in the Netherlands. “I find the fact that three quarters of the products do not fit within the Wheel of Five shocking,” UNICEF director Suzanne Laszlo said to the newspaper. “Many children do not have a healthy diet. They eat too little of what is good for them and too much of what they don’t need. This makes them susceptible to diabetes and obesity, for example.”

    Various groups of products were analyzed for the study. In some categories, such as breakfast cereals, the children’s products are less healthy than the adult products. In the takeaway biscuits and children’s drinks categories, most products contain too much sugar, energy, salt or too little fiber. In the dessert department, not even a single children’s product appears to fall within the so-called Wheel of Five.

    Parents are not faced with an easy task at the supermarket if they want to give their children healthy food, according to the research. Not a single child’s dessert meets the guidelines of the Nutrition Center. The baby shelf also came out poorly. More than two thirds of the products on this shelf do not meet the guidelines for a healthy diet for this age category.

    The Netherlands Nutrition Center is pleased with UNICEF’s research. “I think this could be an eye-opener for many people,” argues nutrition expert Iris Groenenberg. Parents who are now wondering what they can then give to their children do not need to worry, she says. “Supermarkets try to sell all kinds of products that are especially for children. But the reassuring message is: you don’t need all those special kids products at all! If a child eats a healthy and varied diet according to the Wheel of Five, it gets all the nutrients it needs. ”

    The nutrition expert recommends that children get used to certain flavors slowly. “If you let children drink plain water, that becomes normal. And then you can best give lemonade afterwards. But if you start with too much sweet and salty at a young age, you will develop sweet and salty taste preferences. For example, start with the vegetables as they are, then children will get used to that. Sultana and Liga biscuits but also egg cakes and breakfast cakes have a healthy image, while there is actually hardly anything healthy in it. A whole-grain cracker would be better.”

    UNICEF ​​wants supermarkets to set up the baby shelf differently and leave only the responsible products. The children’s rights organization advocates “fairer” and “clearer” communication and a ban on marketing for unhealthy products. Laszlo: “In this way we make it easier for parents to make the right food choices.”

  • The Dutch government’s coronavirus notification app CoronaMelder will not launch on Tuesday, 1 September, as was previously planned. Minister Hugo de Jonge of Public Health decided to postpone the national launch until after the law that must regulate the use of the app is in place. The Minister recently submitted this emergency bill to the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, Het Parool reports.When the bill will be passed and implemented, is not yet clear. The idea behind the app is that it will make source and contact investigating easier for health service GGD. The CoronaMelder uses Bluetooth to register the location of other smartphones that also have the app installed. If a CoronaMelder user tests positive for the coronavirus, the GGD can use the app to notify all other app-users who had been in close vicinity with the patient for more than 15 minutes. The app became available in app stores two weeks ago and was downloaded by over a million people, despite it still being in its test phase and only working in certain areas.

    The app was tested by GGDs in five regions over the past weeks. De Jonge reported to parliament that all participating GGDs had at least one infected person who had CoronaMelder installed on their phone and was willing to notify other app users through it. Over 400 people contacted the GGD to book a Covid-19 test after receiving a notification from the app. According to Het Parool, a number of issues emerged during this test phase, and the postponed launch also gives De Jonge time to address these.

    Bureau Berenschot analyzed the GGDs experience with the app and noted a number of complaints, according to the newspaper. Firstly, the app advises people who had close contact with a Covid-19 patient to get tested. That is contrary to the government advice to only get tested if you have symptoms. According to Parool, the GGDs experience this as confusing,and they feel they now have less control over what needs to be one. Testing capacity is also limited.

    Another problem is that on some phones, the app only shows notifications if it is open. The Netherlands and other companies that use the same type of app are currently working with Google and Apple on a solution to this. At the moment though, the only option seems to be to ask users to open the app once a day – something Germany is already doing, the newspaper said.

  • Physiotherapists in the Netherlands are seeing a significant increase in the number of complaints among homeworkers now that people work from home for a long time due to the corona crisis, Dutch newspaper Trouw reported on Saturday. The Royal Dutch Society for Physical Therapy (KNGF), among others, sees an increase in the number of people with complaints at home.A growing number of home workers develop arm, neck, shoulder or back complaints because they often sit behind a screen. Although these are complaints that can be remedied quite well, doctors fear that they will get worse the longer people work from home.

    “Since May, we have seen a significant increase in the number of complaints. Working from home often went well at first. But now that complaints arise that are slowly getting worse, they come to us”, says Boris van der Vorst, owner of a company with five hundred physiotherapists and 140 practices in conversation with the newspaper. There are no precise figures on the increase.

    According to Van der Vorst, many complaints are caused by people not having their home workplace in order. “People who work for hours at a laptop every day have problems. A good working posture requires a laptop holder, a separate keyboard and a separate mouse. Just like an ergonomic office chair and a well-adjusted desk,” says the physiotherapist.

    Because of the COVID-19 virus, a large part of the Dutch have been working from home much more often since mid-March. The KNGF, the national umbrella organization for physiotherapists, also sees an increase in the number of people with home work complaints, according to Trouw.

    Erik Havelaar, occupational physiotherapist and practice owner, thinks that for many people the balance between work and private life is disrupted. “Employees have to take care of their children at home or are distracted during work. That causes stress and fatigue,” he tells the newspaper.

    Trade union FNV said Friday that the absence of colleagues and the associated social interaction is seen by many of their members as the biggest disadvantage of working from home. According to Havelaar, this lack also contributes to complaints. “Complaints often arise from a combination of physical and mental factors.”

    Jochum van Brummelen, manual therapist and practice owner, says in conversation with Trouw that there are things that people can do themselves to prevent complaints from working from home. “Take short breaks while working, try not to sit all day, work standing up, move around and go outside during the times when you are not working”.

  • The Dutch cabinet is coming up with a special urgent law to ensure that the upcoming elections are corona-proof. Voters will soon be allowed to cast three proxy votes, instead of two. There will also be more mobile polling stations.Minister Kajsa Ollogren (Internal Affairs) announced this to the House of Representatives on Tuesday afternoon. “Corona is almost certainly still among us in the coming elections,” says Ollongren. “But by taking measures, these elections can be organized in such a way that it is safe for voters to vote and it is safe for polling station members to do their work in polling stations.”With a temporary emergency law, Ollongren wants to regulate that a voter can cast a maximum of three proxy votes, which is currently a maximum of two. It will also be possible to request and issue a written power of attorney digitally. According to Ollongren, this is important for voters who are in quarantine because of the corona virus.

    In order to be able to comply with the 1.5 meter rule, there will also be new rules for mobile and special polling stations in the emergency act. In this way municipalities can ensure that there are enough places to vote. On 18 November there will be redivision elections in Appingedam, Delfzijl, Loppersum, Oisterwijk, Vught, Boxtel and Haaren. The parliamentary elections will be on 17 March 2021.

    On the advice of the RIVM, there will be protective ‘cough screens’ for polling station members. There will also be cleaning products to keep the voting booths and pencils clean throughout the day. Furthermore, there will be a separate polling station member in each polling station who checks whether it is not getting too busy and who, if necessary, asks to follow the corona rules.

    Minister Ollongren announced on Monday that the cabinet reserves 30 million euros for municipalities to ensure that the elections run smoothly. The government also announced that a national recruitment campaign will soon be launched to help municipalities find enough polling station members and vote counters.

  • The catering industry is one of the most affected sectors in the Netherlands by the corona crisis. This quarter, turnover fell by slightly more than half compared to the previous quarter, reports the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) on 31 August. That while sales in the first quarter already fell by almost 14%. The industry was hit especially in April.Revenues from accommodation providers, including hotels and holiday parks, decreased by 64% in the second quarter. In the first quarter, turnover there already fell by almost 15%. Hotels in particular saw sales collapse, by 75% less compared to the first measurement period of the year.Entrepreneurs in the hospitality industry are still very pessimistic, according to Statistics Netherlands. Business confidence at the beginning of the third quarter was minus 52.4 on a scale of 100. This is a very low score from a historical point of view, but a lot better than at the beginning of the previous quarter. Then the confidence came to minus 84.3.

Update on Dujat & Members

  • Our member Centraal Museum, has 86 Miffys on display until 20 September. Sixty-five years ago – on 21 June 1955 – Dick Bruna’s best-known design first saw the light of day: Miffy. For the rest of his life, Miffy continued to inspire Bruna to make simple but powerful picture stories. He made 32 picture books featuring Miffy. He thought up the stories, drew the illustrations, and wrote the texts.On the occasion of her birthday, Centraal Museum presents 86 Miffys in a new outfit. International fashion students from Nottingham, Hong Kong, Milan, Mexico and of course Utrecht created the designs at the invitation of Mercis BV, the company that manages the rights to Dick Bruna’s work worldwide. The Miffys will be on display until 20 September.


  • Last week, we sent out invitations for our upcoming online webinar: “Workforce of the future – Business opportunities in aging societies” which will take place in the morning of Thursday 10 September, with speakers of SEO Amsterdam Economics (affiliated with the University of Amsterdam), KPMG and Yakult Europe.Japan is known to be a frontrunner in dealing with an aging population in the workforce. The Netherlands will be facing this as well and is preparing for a changed demographic workforce. In the webinar, we will be addressing this issue from various angles, being it the trends on the economic impact or the impact on productivity. If you missed the invitation, please let us know.
  • On Tuesday 1 September, the first on-site Dujat event took place after a few months of only organizing online events due to the outbreak of COVID-19. A small group of members was welcomed at the office of Loyens & Loeff in Amsterdam, while a bigger group logged in from their home and offices to attend the seminar online. The slides will soon be available.It was very nice to see everyone again, and we hope to continue organizing offline events in combination with online events.
  • 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: NOSNu.nlAdRIVMTelegraafJapanTodayKyodo NewsNHKJapanTimes