Weekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 39, 2020

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Update on Japan

  • On Tuesday 22 September the Tokyo metropolitan government reported 88 new cases of the coronavirus, 10 down from Monday. The number is the result of 1,014 tests conducted on 19 September. The tally brought Tokyo’s cumulative total to 24,394. The number of infected people in Tokyo with severe symptoms is 30, three up from Monday, health officials said.

    Nationwide, the number of reported cases was 331. After Tokyo, the prefectures with the most cases were Osaka (67), Kanagawa (38), Chiba (18), Saitama (14) , Hyogo (13), Gunma (13) and Kagoshima (11). Five coronavirus-related deaths were reported.

  • Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide and US President Donald Trump have agreed to further strengthen the Japan-US alliance. Suga talked with Trump by telephone for about 25 minutes on Sunday night in their first phone call since Suga took office on 16 September.

    After the talks, Suga told reporters that President Trump assured him they would work together to further develop the alliance, which they consider the foundation for regional peace and stability.

    Suga asked Trump for full US support in resolving the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea. The president responded he would work closely with Japan on the issue. The leaders agreed the two allies will cooperate on the development and distribution of a vaccine and treatment for COVID-19.

    They also confirmed close cooperation to realize a free and open Indo-Pacific region. Trump told Suga to call anytime 24 hours a day in the event of a contingency. The prime minister told reporters that he is willing to hold telephone talks with other world leaders to deepen bilateral relations.

  • A tropical storm developing in the Pacific Ocean, was slowly sweeping toward Japan on Tuesday, threatening the main island of Honshu with heavy rainfall and harsh winds. Tropical Storm Dolphin had sustained winds of up to 51 miles per hour as of Tuesday morning.

    Heavy rainfall have set off mudslides and flooding in wide areas of Japan recently, and the Japan Meteorological Agency warned even weak storms can wreak havoc. Dolphin is forecast to bring turbulent seas, wind and rain on a projected course over southern Honshu, including the major city of Osaka and surrounding areas in central Japan, by Wednesday. It will then move northeast over Tokyo, and then to Sendai and nearby areas in northern Japan later in the week, the agency said.

    Earlier this month, some parts of Japan and the Korean Peninsula were slammed by Typhoon Haishen, which damaged buildings and flooded roads.

  • Major Japanese light equipment maker Ushio Inc has recently launched an ultraviolet lamp that can kill the coronavirus without harming human health — the first of its kind in the world.

    The Care 222 UV lamp, which Ushio developed together with Columbia University, is expected to be used for disinfection at occupied spaces where people keep coming in and out and the risk of contracting the deadly virus runs high, such as buses, trains, elevators and offices, the company said.

    UV lamps have been widely used as an effective means of sterilization notably in the medical and food-processing industries. But conventional UV rays cannot be used in spaces where there are people as they cause skin cancer and eye problems.

    Ushio’s new lamp, however, emits the UV rays with a wavelength of 222 nanometers, as opposed to the conventional 254-nanometer wavelength, making them lethal to germs but benign to humans. At this particular wavelength, the firm said, UV rays cannot infiltrate the surface of the skin nor the eyes to bring about cancer-causing genetic defects and other damage.

    The Care 222, when emitted from a ceiling, inactivates 99% of viruses and bacteria in the air and up to a 3-square-meter surface of objects some 2.5 meters away from the lamp, in six to seven minutes.

    A recent third-party study by Hiroshima University confirmed the 222-nanometer UV rays are effective in killing the new coronavirus, Ushio said. The 1.2-kilogram Care 222 emitting device comes in about the size of a hardcover book and with a price tag of 300,000 yen. The company said it only accepts orders from medical institutions for the moment but will serve other customers once production catches up with demand.

    Ushio has also teamed up with Toshiba Lighting and Technology Corp, a subsidiary of Toshiba Corp, to develop general-purpose lamps with Care 222 emitters installed to cater to a broad range of situations. The companies aim to release such products next January.

  • Fujifilm Holdings Corp said Monday it has completed delayed clinical tests of Avigan, a potential treatment for COVID-19, paving the way for the application of sales and production of the antivirus drug.

    Fujifilm Toyama Chemical Co, a subsidiary of Fujifilm Holdings, is conducting analysis of data from the tests to confirm the safety and efficacy of Avigan, which could be the third drug for the treatment of novel coronavirus patients if approved by the government. In Japan, the antiviral drug remdesivir developed by U.S. firm Gilead Sciences Inc was given the green light in May, followed by the steroid drug dexamethasone.

    Fujifilm Toyama began clinical tests in March to see if Avigan was effective in treating patients with the respiratory disease caused by the virus and they were initially expected to end by June. But it was delayed as a downtrend in the number of new infection cases in the country made it difficult to gather enough patient data, targeted at 96.

    Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had expressed hope to have the drug, also known as favipiravir, approved in May but a Japanese university’s interim report, released in mid-May, did not show any clear efficacy of Avigan against COVID-19. Japan saw a resurgence in new virus cases following the lifting of a state of emergency in late May but the numbers of infections have moderated recently.

  • Japan’s tallest skyscraper around 390 meters high, which is scheduled to be built in front of Tokyo Station in fiscal 2027, will be named “Torch Tower,” its developer Mitsubishi Estate Co said Thursday.

    The new landmark with 63 stories above ground and four underground will be a complex of offices, commercial facilities and a hall accommodating around 2,000 people. A luxury hotel and an observation deck, where visitors can view Mt Fuji, Japan’s tallest mountain, will be located in the upper floors.

    The name Torch Tower comes from a wish to lighten up Japan like a torch, Mitsubishi Estate said. The planned skyscraper is part of a development project, with three other buildings and a 7,000-square-meter plaza slated for construction in a 31,400-square-meter area near Tokyo’s Marunouchi business and commercial district.

    “By adding a new attraction, we will shape Marunouchi into a district that would be chosen by businesses,” Mitsubishi Estate President Junichi Yoshida said at a press conference Thursday.

    The current tallest building in the country is the 300-meter Abeno Harukas in Osaka. Under a skyscraper project by Mori Building Co, a 330-meter-tall building is scheduled to be completed in central Tokyo in 2023. The world’s tallest building is 828-meter Burj Khalifa in the United Arab Emirates.

  • Movie theaters, sports games and other events drew large numbers over the weekend after Japan relaxed a rule limiting the size of crowds in yet another sign of a gradual return to social and economic activities following the outbreak of COVID-19.

    A baseball game between the DeNA BayStars and the Yomiuri Giants at Yokohama Stadium drew a total of 13,106 spectators on Saturday, making it the first domestic sports event to top the 10,000 mark since the outbreak of the virus. Stadiums can now be filled to up to 50% of their capacities.

    Reservations for domestic flights with All Nippon Airways for Saturday — the first day of the four-day weekend — totaled 87,000, the highest level since 28 February. The carrier said it has booked an average of 69,000 reservations per day over the four-day period.

    The surge of domestic travel stands in contrast to previous holidays, such as the summer Bon holiday period. Previously, people living in congested urban areas were asked to avoid making trips to see their families or visit tourist attractions in areas with fewer cases of COVID-19.

    A study by mobile carrier NTT Docomo showed the number of people Saturday at a domestic terminal at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, as well as at train stations and shopping districts nationwide, had basically returned to pre-pandemic levels.

    Saturday’s easing of the rules on crowd sizes came three days after the Tokyo Metropolitan Government lifted a request that restaurants, bars, karaoke parlors and other businesses serving alcohol in the capital’s 23 wards close operations at 10 p.m.

    “It is important to balance the prevention of infection and the promotion of economic activities,” economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said Saturday.

    The government will decide whether to keep the attendance rule in place beyond November after reviewing coronavirus and seasonal influenza infection trends, according to officials.

    Speaking at a news conference Friday in Tokyo, Nishimura said that avoiding the 3Cs — confined spaces, crowded places and close-contact settings — was a prerequisite for relaxing restrictions. “I want business operators to thoroughly enforce basic measures to prevent the spread of the virus,” he said.

Press Conference on Friday 18 September.

Update on the Netherlands

  • The number of new coronavirus infections reported by public health agency RIVM on Monday totaled 2,223, a 71% increase compared to last Monday, and a 20% increase over Sunday’s total. The surge in new infections was also met by another rise in the number of patients hospitalized for Covid-19, a figure which has risen daily since 2 September.
  • On Monday, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague led the Netherlands with the most residents testing positive for the virus. The metropolitan areas around those three cities, as well as Utrecht, Leiden, and Haarlem, have been subject to new social restrictions to slow the spread of the virus since Sunday evening.

    There was a 16% increase in the total number of hospital patients receiving care for COVID-19, which jumped up by 57. That increase was the highest recorded by patient coordination office LCPS since it began distributing statistics in early April. The trend is not likely to change any time soon, said Ernst Kuipers, the head of the Dutch acute care network.

    “The number of patients admitted, both in the clinics and in the ICU, has risen again. The next week will be no different,” Kuipers said. The patient total included 85 people being treated in intensive care units, an increase of eight. It was the highest number of COVID-19 patients in ICU since 15 June.

    There were also 325 people being treated outside of the ICU, the most since June 10. It was an increase of 49 over Sunday’s total, the largest increase in non-acute care departments since 11 May.

    To date, the ICU system has treated 3,167 people from the Netherlands for COVID-19, with 2,073 eventually being released from the hospital. Nonprofit organization NICE noted that 900 people with the coronavirus disease died in intensive care since the end of February.

  • Due to the increase of COVID-19 infections in the Netherlands, a press conference was held on Friday night to introduce new measures and restrictions in certain areas in the country.

    “The coronavirus is making a comeback,” Prime Minister Mark Rutte said. Infections have mainly increased in six regions: Amsterdam-Amstelland, Rotterdam-Rijnmond, Haaglanden which covers The Hague, Utrecht, Leiden and the rest of Hollands Midden, as well as Kennemerland which includes Haarlem.

    The hospitality industry in those locations will not be allowed to admit customers from midnight, and all facilities must be closed by 1 a.m. This applies for indoors and outdoors. The maximum number of people allowed in any location will be capped at 50, with the exception of protests, religious gatherings, funerals, and education facilities.

    “It is a conceivable scenario that lockdown-like measures will be taken in specific regions, if necessary,” De Jonge said. Mayors in those cities will also close off areas where people have gathered to hold parties with little regard for the coronavirus rules.

  • Traveling to Belgium and Germany is more difficult if you live in North or South Holland. Both countries have tightened the travel rules because the number of positive tests in the two Dutch provinces is increasing rapidly. Belgian and German tourists will also no longer come for a holiday. NU.nl summarized the meaning of the restrictions on their website.

    Anyone who has Belgium as their final destination and wants to stay for longer than 48 hours must fill in an identification form online. This must be done within 48 hours before arrival in Belgium. People from South Holland and North Holland will then receive an activation code to have themselves tested in one of the Belgian test centers. A test done in the Netherlands is not valid.

    Travelers from red areas are treated as ‘high-risk contacts’ and have an entry ban. Violation of this prohibition can lead to fines of up to € 4,000 and in theory even imprisonment of up to six months. Incidentally, the Belgian government recognizes that control will be extremely difficult and even impossible in practice. There will be occasional checks at the border.

    The entry ban only applies if you have been in a red risk area for 48 consecutive hours. So if you live in Utrecht and work in Hoofddorp, you come from an ‘orange province’ and you do not have to do a mandatory corona test, although it is recommended.

    Even if you are traveling through Belgium to France, for example, you do not have to be tested or fill in a form. In the vicinity of Antwerp and Brussels, it is advised not to stop to rest or refuel.

    Germany has also designated the provinces of North and South Holland as a risk area due to the sharp increase in confirmed corona infections, mainly in the cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague.

    People from those areas are allowed to travel to Germany, but must show a negative COVID test that is not older than 48 hours, or they must undergo preventive testing on arrival in Germany and go into self-quarantine for fourteen days. Tests in Germany are free and can be requested via the special telephone number 116117, or via the website.

    Anyone coming from a risk area must fill in a form (PDF) with their home address and residence address in Germany. Failing to fill in this form or completing it incorrectly can result in fines of up to 25,000 euros.

    If the corona figures continue to grow, it is expected that more countries will start banning travelers from the Netherlands. Denmark decided on Friday afternoon to tighten the rules on Saturday 19 September. Upon arrival in Denmark, travelers from the Netherlands must prove that they have a ‘valid reason’ to enter the country. This could be a business trip, a visit to a partner or family member or a transit to another country.

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Denmark had already advised residents of the country not to come to the Netherlands if it is not really necessary. Also in the United Kingdom it is not recommended to travel to the Netherlands if it is not strictly necessary.

  • Minister Tamara van Ark for Medical Care is putting an end to collective discounts on health insurance packages, she said in a letter to parliament. She wants to prevent some policyholders paying for the discounts of others, and believes that scrapping collective discounts will also lead to a clearer policy offer.

    Collective discounts were created so that health insurers could make health-promoting agreements for specific groups, and return the cost savings in the form of a discount. In practice, however, constructions arose in which insurers first increase the price for all customers, and then give discount for certain groups, so-called cross-subsidization, the Minister. That resulted in, for example, healthy young people getting substantial discounts, while people with a chronic condition have to pay the full amount.

    “The health insurance policy is for everyone, and that requires solidarity with each other. So that the collective discount for one person is not paid out of someone else’s wallet. In addition, people must be able to compare their health insurance policy in a clear and fair way on price and content,” Van Ark said.

    The abolition of collective discounts does not affect collectives themselves. They can continue to exist. Discounts on additional insurance policies will also remain permitted. This abolition will require a amendment to the law. Van Ark therefore expects that it will take effect on 1 January 2023 earliest.

  • Police officers would also like to get priority in being tested for the coronavirus, like healthcare workers and teachers are getting from Monday. The police is also an essential service that is already facing staff shortages, police spokesperson Mireille Beentjes said in Spraakmakers on NPO Radio 1.

    On Monday morning a hotline launched where employees in education and healthcare can make a priority booking for a coronavirus test. The idea is for them to be tested in the morning as much as possible, and get their results by that evening, so that they don’t have to wait at home unnecessarily. Both education and healthcare are facing staff shortages, even without the coronavirus crisis increasing sick leave.

    This also goes for the police, Beentjes said. “Police officers do their work on the street, every day that they wait at home for a test result is one day too many.

    On the first day that healthcare and education personnel were given priority testing for the presence of the coronavirus, already 8,706 people from those industries contacted the dedicated phone number. A spokesman for the GGD GHOR reported this to NU.nl on Monday evening.

    6,736 callers made an appointment for a test – more than three quarters of the total number of people who contacted. The GGD and the Ministry of Health opened the number 0800-8101 on Monday at 8:00 am.

    The special telephone line was no longer available after half an hour on Monday morning because it was too busy. Whoever called the number was told that too many people were calling and that no one could answer.

    Hugo de Jonge, Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport, is busy increasing the lab capacity. For this he has made agreements with three parties abroad. He expects the capacity problems to be resolved by early October. Only when more lab capacity is available can the test capacity be further scaled up.

    Now almost 37,000 corona tests can be performed daily. The minister hopes that this will be 50,000 a day by the end of September.

Update on Dujat & Members

  • 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.nlNOSJapanTodayNHKKyodo News