Weekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 38, 2020

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New Liberal Democratic Party President Yoshihide Suga with the party’s new leadership in Tokyo on Tuesday. From left: Taimei Yamaguchi, chairman of the LDP Election Strategy Committee, General Council chief Tsutomu Sato, Suga, LDP Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai and Policy Research Council chief Hakubun Shimomura

Update on Japan

  • The Tokyo metropolitan government reported 191 new cases of the coronavirus. The number is the result of 2,680 tests conducted on 12 September. The age groups with the most cases were people in their 20s (43) and 30s (38). The tally brought Tokyo’s cumulative total to 23,274. The number of infected people with severe symptoms is 23, unchanged from Monday, health officials said.Nationwide, the number of reported cases was 442. After Tokyo, the prefectures with the most cases were Kanagawa (52), Chiba (30), Hyogo (24), Aichi (21), Saitama (19), Miyagi (18) and Kyoto (13). Two coronavirus-related deaths were reported.
  • On Monday 14 September, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party elected Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga as its new president and ultimately Japan’s new leader to replace outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.In a vote at a meeting of LDP lawmakers of both chambers of the Diet, Suga secured a comfortable victory over his two rivals — Shigeru Ishiba, a former defense minister, and Fumio Kishida, a former foreign minister. A majority of the LDP’s factions gave the top government spokesman their backing after Abe said last month he would step down for health reasons. Suga won 377 votes, Kishida 89, and Ishiba 68.

    Suga’s election as prime minister at an extraordinary Diet session on Wednesday is almost certain as the governing party controls the House of Representatives, the more powerful lower chamber, and holds a majority in the House of Councillors with its coalition partner Komeito. The LDP election became a mere formality for endorsing the party factions’ decisions to back Suga.

    Suga is almost certain to succeed Abe Shinzo as prime minister following a vote in the Diet on Wednesday. If so, his Cabinet would also be announced later that day. On Tuesday NHK reported he will launch a new LDP leadership, filling key posts with veteran lawmakers from the five LDP factions that backed his campaign.

    Suga retained party heavyweight Nikai Toshihiro in the key LDP post of the Secretary-General. Veteran politician Moriyama Hiroshi stays as Diet Affairs Committee Chairperson. These influential figures were Suga’s most powerful supporters in the leadership campaign.

    He also appointed former Communication Minister Sato Tsutomu as General Council Chairperson, the top role of the party’s highest decision making body. Former Education Minister Shimomura Hakubun remains in the party management as Policy Research Council Chairperson. And Yamaguchi Taimei is named Election Strategy Committee Chairperson.

    Suga’s term as LDP president is limited to the remainder of Abe’s current three-year term through September 2021 and a lower house election must be held before 21 October.

  • Last week on Thursday, the Tokyo metropolitan government lowered its coronavirus alert by one level from the highest of four as the number of infections has been on a downward trend in recent days.Tokyo Gov Yuriko Koike said it is important to expand social and economic activities while maintaining necessary measures against the virus and that next Tuesday she plans to withdraw the request for establishments serving alcohol as well as karaoke venues in the capital’s 23 central wards to close by 10 p.m.The central government, meanwhile, will start including Tokyo in its domestic travel subsidy campaign from 1 October given Koike’s decision to lower the alert level, officials said, after having excluded the capital from the program since its launch in July due to the rapid spread of infections.

    At least 7.81 million people are estimated to have stayed at hotels between 27 July and 3 September under the subsidy program, according to the Japan Tourism Agency. Under the Go To travel campaign, the government covers part of the cost of domestic tourist trips. The inclusion of Tokyo, which has a population of nearly 14 million, may significantly boost consumption and help revive the tourism industry hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

    “We need to remain vigilant for a possible resurgence,” Koike said at a press conference. Masataka Inokuchi, vice president of the Tokyo Medical Association, warned at a panel meeting on Thursday that the alert level “could return to its highest” if there are cluster infections.

    The metropolitan government initially called for establishments serving alcohol and karaoke venues to shorten their business hours between 3 and 31 August. After Koike asked residents to avoid traveling or returning to hometowns during the summer holiday season, the number of infections began decreasing from mid-August.

    While the request for Tokyo cities and towns outside the 23 wards was removed as scheduled, it was extended to next Tuesday in the central areas.

  • Kyoto City in western Japan has decided to double the number of staff at public health offices by the end of September to better deal with novel coronavirus infections. The city will move up hiring plans while confirming the wishes of new workers. It will also have staffing agencies send more medical nurses and public health nurses. It aims to have 66 workers by the end of this month.Two public health nurses and two office workers who were initially scheduled to start work next April have already been hired. They will be involved in duties such as making inquiries about the situation of infections. The city hopes they will help to ease the workload, which has become heavier due to the spread of the coronavirus.
  • It seems that British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca plans to resume clinical trials of a coronavirus vaccine in Japan soon, following their resumption in Britain. Sources close to the firm say the trials will restart this week earliest, according to NHK. The trials will restart at multiple locations in Japan, with about 250 people aged 18 or older taking part.AstraZeneca is working with Oxford University to develop the vaccine. Trials in Britain and Brazil are in the final phase. But the drug maker halted its trials around the world last week after one of the participants in Britain developed an unexplained illness.

    AstraZeneca said in a statement on Saturday that it had resumed the trials in Britain after an independent committee concluded it’s safe to conduct the trials. The firm agreed with the Japanese government last month to provide doses for at least 60 million people. It aims to make those for 15 million people available by next March.

  • The number of people aged 100 or above in Japan has surpassed 80,000 for the first time amid the rapid aging of the country’s population, government data showed Tuesday.The number of centenarians rose by 9,176 from the previous year to 80,450 as of Tuesday for the 50th consecutive yearly increase, with women accounting for 88.2% of the total, according to the data released by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

    Centenarians marked the largest annual increase with the number of men rising 1,011 from last year to 9,475 and women up 8,165 to 70,975, the tally showed. The ministry estimated the figures based on resident registry data before the Respect for the Aged Day holiday, which falls next Monday.

    When the survey started in 1963, the number of centenarians stood at 153, but it eclipsed 1,000 in 1981 and surpassed 10,000 in 1998, mainly due to advances in medical technology. Japan’s average life expectancy was 87.45 for women and 81.41 for men in 2019, both record highs, according to health ministry data released in July this year.

    Kane Tanaka, a 117-year-old resident of Fukuoka, southwestern Japan, is the oldest Japanese woman. She has been recognized as the oldest living person in the world by Guinness World Records. Mikizo Ueda, a 110-year-old resident of Nara, western Japan, is the oldest Japanese man.

    By prefecture, Shimane in western Japan has the highest number of centenarians per 100,000 people for the eighth straight year at 127.60, followed by Kochi and Tottori at 119.77 and 109.89, respectively.

  • A university in Tokyo has started remotely monitoring patients in the intensive care units of its hospitals. The system is expected to lessen the workload of healthcare professionals amid the coronavirus outbreak.Showa University is using the internet to monitor about 50 ICU patients at two of its hospitals. Doctors and nurses at the monitoring center check their blood pressure and heart rate. They notify the hospital staff if the patients’ conditions change for the worse.

    The system that was developed by a Dutch company can also suggest methods of treatment based on data collected outside Japan. The hospitals are able to focus on treating patients, as they will need fewer staff members for monitoring.

    The head of Showa University Hospital’s ICU division, Kotani Toru, says the outbreak has worsened the already serious shortage of doctors working in intensive care units, but the system can ease their burdens.

    A hospital in Yokohama, near Tokyo, plans to start using a remote monitoring system developed by a Japanese maker next month.

‘OV is OK’ joint national campaign by Dutch public transport organizations (view here).

Update on the Netherlands

  • The Netherlands recorded its fifth-highest total of new coronavirus infections on Saturday, with public health institute RIVM saying that 1,231 people tested positive for the virus. Although that was 3% lower than on Friday, it was 88% higher than last Saturday’s total.About 800 of Saturday’s new infected people are residents of the Randstad, which encompasses the metropolitan areas of Amsterdam, The Hague, Leiden, Rotterdam and Utrecht. Since Monday, the Netherlands as a whole has registered 6,225 more infections of the coronavirus, up 67% from last week, raising the Dutch total since late February above the 82 thousand mark.

    “The number of admitted Covid patients continues to rise, following the rising number of infections for the past ten days,” said Ernst Kuipers, the head of the Dutch acute care providers network. “Three-fourths of the patients admitted are in Randstad hospitals,” he said.

    Jaap van Dissel of the RIVM suggested this week that new social restrictions should be placed on the larger Dutch cities because of the rising number of infections. Earlier in the week, Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said this was likely in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, and that a national lockdown was possible if the numbers continue to rise.

  • The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has adjusted the travel advice for a number of areas in Europe, from yellow to orange. It is recommended to only make necessary trips there.These are areas in Portugal, Switzerland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Denmark and France. In Portugal, the risk of infection is high in the regions around the capital Lisbon. In Switzerland, this concerns the areas in and around Geneva, Freiburg and Vaud.

    The Hungarian capital Budapest and the Danish capital Copenhagen are now also on orange. In France, a number of regions, including Paris, were already on that color; the Loire and two areas in the Pyrenees have now been added .

    Travel advice has also been tightened for the Czech capital Prague. Travelers returning from the orange areas are expected to go into home quarantine for ten days.

  • Part of teachers and healthcare staff are given temporary priority at coronavirus test centers, so that they no longer spend unnecessary days at home. Minister Hugo de Jonge (Public Health) wrote this in a letter to the Lower House on Friday.In education, this concerns personnel in (special) primary and secondary education. The minister reports that they will be given priority if it is necessary to prevent children from receiving education. The scheme does not apply to childcare employees.

    Part of the healthcare staff is also given priority. This concerns employees who, among other things, cannot be replaced by a colleague and who are also essential for patient and client care and the continuity of care.

    This includes laboratory employees, self-employed workers, temporary workers and employees who are paid from a personal budget (PGB). The priority rule does not apply to persons who provide unpaid and informal care.

    The GGDs will look at how the priority system is set up next week. Among other things, research is being conducted into whether fast lanes can be created in regional hospitals for healthcare workers.

    For a long time, the cabinet did not want to make a distinction between testing professional groups with corona-related complaints, but in response to concerns in the House of Representatives about staff shortages, it nevertheless discussed the options with the GGD.

  • Dutch public transport companies launched a joint campaign on Monday 14 September to get travelers back on the train, tram and bus. With the campaign, the sector wants to convey that public transport is a safe way to travel. The number of public transport users still lags far behind the numbers before the corona crisis.The campaign lasts three months and can be seen and heard on radio, television, billboards and online communications. It has never happened before that the Dutch public transport companies have jointly initiated such a large campaign, but the corona crisis has led to a unique situation, reports Pedro Peters, director of umbrella organization OV-NL.

    “During the lockdown, public transport continued to operate as a vital sector at the request of the central government”, he says. “We kept the Netherlands mobile with almost empty trains, buses, trams, metros and ferries.” But the number of travelers plummeted: during the lockdown, the number of travelers was 90% lower than usual.

    The measures were relaxed a few months ago, but the number of travelers remains  around 50%. This is partly due to the call from the government to work from home as much as possible.

    The sector is expected to suffer a loss of 500 million euros this year. The public transport sector received a financial injection from the government, but this scheme will expire at the end of 2020.

    The focus of the campaign is on inspiring travelers to travel by train, tram, bus or metro more often for business, social and recreational purposes. At the same time, the sector wants to inform them about the applicable measures in public transport. Peters: “With the cooperation of the travelers and, among other things, the educational institutions, such as wearing the face mask and traveling as much as possible outside of rush hours, we managed to travel responsibly with public transport.”

    According to Peters, many people and companies are not yet aware that public transport is also accessible for non-essential journeys. “We would like people to experience again how pleasant and responsible it is to travel by public transport.”

  • The Austrian and Swiss rail operators ÖBB and SBB will work together to ensure that there is a night train connection between Amsterdam and Zurich. They presented plans for this on Tuesday. Four years ago, the plug was pulled from the same night line.In August it was announced that the carriers were investigating the possibility of the line together with the NS (Dutch Railways), but now they have signed a letter of intent to realize it. The Austrian and Swiss carriers want to make the connection because there was an increasing demand for night trains until the corona crisis. The train also stops in Cologne, Frankfurt and Basel en route to Zurich and it will be a daily connection. It will run from December 2021.

    The night train seems to be gaining popularity again in the past year, after a period when night connections disappeared from the scene. From December it is possible to travel from Amsterdam to Vienna at night.

  • The corona virus has a huge impact on major events for some time. The Dutch ‘Prinsjesdag’ (Little Prince Day or Budget Day) is no exception: this Tuesday sees historical changes.The biggest change is that this year’s speech from the throne was not delivered in the Ridderzaal, but in the Grote Kerk. The corona virus is the underlying reason for the relocation. In the Ridderzaal, the 225 Upper and Lower House members cannot maintain sufficient distance from one another. This is possible in the Grote Kerk, but it is not large enough to also be able to invite the partners of the MPs.

    At the arrival of the politicians this year, not only special hats are looked at, but also special face masks. Politicians who travel in specially arranged buses will receive a mask with a special design for Prinsjesdag. A total of five hundred copies were made and they are already considered a collector’s item. Experts expect some MPs to bring their own special face mask.

    The traditional balcony scene after the Speech from the Throne has also been canceled. Normally, tens of thousands of fans come to Noordeinde Palace early in the morning to get a glimpse of the royal family, but this year the municipality of The Hague wants to have as little audience as possible in the city. All outdoor activities have therefore been considerably reduced.

    The Netherlands must prepare for a severe economic setback, King Willem-Alexander said in his speech. According to the king, the Dutch government is choosing not to cut spending during the corona crisis, but to invest in “job retention, good facilities and a cleaner country”. King Willem-Alexander did call the economic figures “unprecedented in peacetime”. “A historic turnaround from a surplus in the state budget to a deficit of 7% in one year.”

    The speech from the throne also mentioned the emergency packages made available by the cabinet. According to the king, these extra expenditures should be used to absorb the consequences of the corona crisis in the short term. The king did emphasize the importance of “training and education”, so that people who have lost their jobs can find work in other sectors.

    King Willem-Alexander concluded his speech from the throne by emphasizing the importance of continuing to look to the future “beyond this crisis”.

  • Young people under the age of sixteen will soon no longer be able to buy knives at IKEA, Xenos and HEMA stores, the chain stores reported on Monday. The Action previously took this decision because of the increase in the possession of knives among young people.According to Xenos and HEMA, cashiers will receive instructions soon. IKEA informed NU.nl that it recognizes the problem and “takes responsibility for contributing to the solution”. “We are currently taking the necessary practical steps to implement this amended policy in all our stores in the Netherlands within days.”

    The Swedish furniture giant does say that the government has an important role to play “in the form of clear legislation, just like the age limit for tobacco and alcohol”. “In the coming period we will be talking to other retailers and politicians to find a solution together.”

    The Action chain store decided to stop selling knives to children this summer. The company did this after local police officers from the Zaanstreek had caught several young people on the street in a short time with knives from the shop. Last week, local police said they definitely saw a decrease in possession of weapons among young people since the store implemented the measure. Mayor Jan Hamming of Zaanstad has subsequently called on other stores to do the same. IKEA, Xenos and HEMA are now responding to this.

    Police said in March that the number of young people involved in knife violence has risen. “Knives are a widely used weapon. Not only young people use them. Whether the increase in minors involved is a development that is continuing cannot be said at the moment. But in any case it is worrisome and something to keep a close eye on,” said Anja Schouten, portfolio holder for youth at the police.

  • The coming days promise to be sunny and warm. Temperatures are expected to rise above 30 degrees. “These are certainly exceptional values for this time of year”, says NOS weatherman Gerrit Hiemstra. Since 1901 it has only happened five times before that the temperature in September in De Bilt exceeded the tropical limit of 30 degrees. “But”, adds Hiemstra, “of course it has to happen first.”Whether the tropical temperatures will also cause crowds at the beach? “The water is still warm”, says Hiemstra. “It always cools down a bit more slowly. So in terms of swimming, you will probably be better off in the coming days than in the spring.”

Update on Dujat & Members

  • Last week, our webinar about Aging Societies took place. Various members from Japan and the Netherlands took part. In case you missed it, it is now possible to download the presentation slides on our website. Please contact us if you forgot the password.
  • 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: Nu.nlNOSTelegraafJapanTodayNHKKyodo News