Weekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 40, 2020

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Left: Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike on 23 Sept. at the Prime Minister’s Office. Right : Yoshiro Mori, president of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic organizing committee, at a fundraiser for the Liberal Democratic Party’s largest faction led by Hiroyuki Hosoda in Tokyo on 28 Sept. | KYODO

Update on Japan

  • The Tokyo Metropolitan Government on Tuesday reported 212 new cases of the coronavirus, up 134 from Monday. The number is the result of 2,408 tests conducted on 26 September.By age group, the most infections were people in their 20s (52), followed by 33 in their 40s and 31 in their 50s.The tally brought Tokyo’s cumulative total to 25,547. The number of infected people in Tokyo with severe symptoms is 23, down three from Monday, health officials said.
  • Yoshiro Mori, the president of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics organizing committee, said Monday that the games would go on next year “no matter what happens.”The former prime minister was speaking at a party held by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s Hosoda faction. He explained that measures now being worked out will make the games safe in the face of the novel coronavirus pandemic that forced their postponement until next July.

    A government-led panel has worked out immigration protocols that will allow athletes to travel to Japan and train even if Japan is prohibiting travel from their homeland. “No matter what happens, we will be able to hold the Olympics,” Mori said.

    Last week, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach expressed optimism about the games’ prospects, while admitting the situation around the world is still uncertain.

    On Wednesday, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike also agreed that the country will move forward with the global sporting event.“The prime minister and I both hope to move forward with plans to host the 2020 Games,” Koike told reporters at the Prime Minister’s Office following the talks. “Regarding virus countermeasures, the capital will continue to work closely with the central government in strengthening hospital capacity and increasing testing numbers.”

    Experts have pointed out repeatedly that, for the games to be held safely, the virus would have to be conquered not just in Japan but in every country from which people are expected to travel to watch the quadrennial sporting event. At the same time, canceling or postponing the event further will have a devastating effect on Japan, which has already spent billions of yen preparing.

    The government will exempt athletes competing at next year’s games from the 14-day self-quarantine period currently required for all travelers arriving from abroad. The athletes will have to test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of leaving their own country.

  • Japan plans to start easing a travel advisory currently in place for 159 countries and regions in October, starting with those where the pace of new coronavirus infections is slow including Australia, New Zealand and Vietnam, sources close to the matter said Monday.The Foreign Ministry’s travel advisory for the 159 countries and regions currently stands at Level 3, warning against all travel. If it lowers the advisory for some countries to Level 2, it means that non-essential travel should be avoided. No country is subject to Japan’s highest Level 4 advisory which urges all Japanese nationals to evacuate and avoid all travel.

    In relaxing immigration restrictions, Japan will allow the entry of foreign nationals with permits to stay for three months or longer for purposes including engaging in medical, cultural and sports-related activities. Business trips for less than three months will also be allowed.

    Those travelers must be accepted by entities or organizations capable of ensuring they have tested negative for the virus before entering Japan. After arrival, they have to stay in self-isolation for 14 days and avoid using public transportation during the period.

    The government is considering limiting the number of entries to about 1,000 each day. At the same time, it will increase virus testing capacity at airports, government sources said earlier.

    “We will start relaxing entry restrictions by looking at the situation of infections in each country and also considering the degree of need (for travel),” economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who is also in charge of the response to the coronavirus, told a press conference.

  • Nearly 60% of responding Japanese say information about natural disasters and administrative services should be provided in multiple languages, a government survey shows.In the annual survey by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, 58.1% of respondents said in a multiple-answer question that such information should be provided in a “variety of foreign languages,” while 46.3% said the information should be conveyed in simple Japanese for foreigners to easily understand. The poll also showed that 28.9% said they have opportunities to interact with foreigners, including casual greetings or talking while shopping.

    Asked in a multiple-answer question about how they communicate with foreigners on such occasions, 51.3% responded they talk with gestures, followed by 44.7% who said using English or other foreign languages, and 43.7% who said speaking in simple Japanese.

    While 20.3% said they use smartphone apps and other translation devices, 23.4% said they use normal Japanese. The survey also found that 68.3% expressed hope that foreign residents have Japanese ability to the extent they do not have trouble in daily life.

    The interview survey was conducted between 27 February and 15 March, covering 3,557 people aged 16 or older, of whom 1,994, or 56.1%, provided valid answers, the agency said.

  • The coronavirus pandemic has heightened distress felt by unmarried Japanese couples in long-term relationships as they face the prospect that, should one become ill, they would not be afforded the same rights as married couples.Uncomfortable about relinquishing their respective family names, they felt their only option was to remain common-law couples. For this reason, they want a change made to the civil code that would give them legal recognition as a family, changing a requirement that Japanese married couples share a name.

    “We prepared our marriage document immediately after April’s declaration of a national emergency against the virus,” said a 46-year-old nurse who has been with her common-law husband for 19 years.

    Japanese husbands or wives can take their spouses’ last name, but according to the labor ministry, 96% of those who give up their family name are women.

    The lack of legally recognized ties has left the nurse unable to claim spousal tax deductions, and parental and inheritance rights concerns remain. But the novel coronavirus pandemic has heightened the stress and resolve to deal with the issue.

    If either is hospitalized by the virus, she worries that it may be difficult to persuade the hospital to share important health updates. They could be refused hospitalization as a family, could be barred from receiving critical treatment information, or be unable to sign consent for medical treatments on the other’s behalf should it be warranted.

    There are other worries, too. Since her husband has parental rights, his sudden death would leave her with no legal claim over their children, putting them in a vulnerable position.

    A Tokyo-based citizen’s group said that they have received numerous calls during the pandemic from those worried about what to do if they meet with unforeseen circumstances, much like the nurse’s concerns, in which they are not legally recognized as a family.

    “The pandemic has made the issue more personal. I want the public to be more aware so anyone can live with the last names they’ve chosen,” said Naho Ida, 44, the group’s executive director.

    Japan’s newly installed Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga recently said that the topic needs “cautious discussion” and lawmakers like Tomomi Inada have been relatively vocal about the need for change.

    The citizen’s organization, which was created in 2018, says attendance to their study sessions on the issue to which they invite experts and lawmakers has grown, including by those of a conservative bent.

  • Japan Airlines is ditching the phrase “ladies and gentlemen” and instead embracing gender neutral terms during in-flight and airport announcements from next month, the company said Monday.From 1 October, JAL “will abolish expressions that based on (two types of) sex and use gender-friendly expression” like “good morning” and “good evening,” a spokesperson for the airline told AFP.

    In Japanese, the expression generally used for such announcements is already gender-neutral, but the decision applies to other languages used by the airline.

    The decision appears to be a first for major Japanese carriers, with a spokeswoman for rival ANA Holdings telling AFP they would “study the issue based on comments from our customers.”

    Same-sex marriage is not legally recognized in Japan but the government has gradually expanded rights protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens in recent years.

    JAL last year operated a trial “LGBT Ally Charter” flight for same-sex partners and their families, and has already changed rules to extend spouse and family allowances to same-sex partners.

  • The National Police Agency (NPA) is set to start a project to loan vehicle-mounted security cameras to stalking victims free of charge from fiscal 2021. There have been many cases where stalkers have secretly installed GPS trackers in the victims’ cars to find out where they are. The NPA aims to prevent such crimes by using security cameras to identify the perpetrators.An additional 15 million yen has been included in the budget request for the next fiscal year as a subsidy for prefectural police to introduce the project. The NPA estimates that each prefectural police headquarters will install five sets of security cameras, with one set consisting of four devices.

    In the first six months of this year, police across Japan exposed 59 cases in which people were caught monitoring targets such as former dating partners in violation of the Anti-Stalking Act.

    Meanwhile, Japan’s Supreme Court handed down its first ruling in July that installing GPS devices in cars to remotely check where they are is not covered by the definition of “monitoring” under the anti-stalker law. Nevertheless, as secretly installing GPS devices in another person’s car could escalate into stalking, ambushes and other such acts, the NPA decided to rent out security cameras to protect victims. Police will base their investigation on the footage to identify the stalkers.

Update on the Netherlands

  • Another 3,025 people tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to preliminary data from the RIVM released on Tuesday. The tally was 3.5% higher than on Monday, and 35% higher than a week earlier.Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague were again the three cities with the most residents testing positive for the virus, counting 385, 244, and 144 new infections, respectively.
  • Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Minister Hugo de Jonge were back with a press conference on Monday 28 September, to announce new measures due to the increase of COVID-19 infections in the Netherlands. According to figures from Stichting Kijkonderzoek, a massive 6.4 million people watched the press conference, which is much more than previous press conferences where about 3.6 million people watched live on television, NU.nl reports.At the press conference, a number of national measures were announced, which will be applied from Tuesday, 29 September 18:00. This includes the advice to work from home as much as possible again, and offices with many infections can risk to get closed for 14 days. At home only 3 guests can be received (excl. children up to 12 years old). In indoor spaces (excl. exceptions such as theaters, schools etc.) a maximum of 30 people incl. children may be together. Cafes and restaurants close at 22:00 and may allow a maximum of 30 guests. It will no longer be possible to enter after 21:00.

    Sports canteens have to close again, and supermarkets and stores will go back to previous measures limiting customers. Additionally, besides cafes and restaurants, people with a contact profession must also register customers, for example hairdressers. There will also be various regional rules depending on each area. Stores may deny customers who do not wear facemasks, depending on the region and/or store’s own measures. Chain stores HEMA and several supermarkets have already said they strongly encourage face masks, but will not refuse customers who do not wear them.

    Rules for outside have also been changed and added: All sports matches can continue without an audience, and it is no longer possible to attend trainings. Parents must drop off their children at the entrance. In the open air, a maximum of 40 people incl. children may come together in one place, and they must remain in one place without walking around. The measures are also listed on the website of the Dutch government (in Dutch).

  • Patients currently infected with the coronavirus seem to be less ill than patients infected in the first wave of COVID-19, the Dutch Internists Association (NIV) reported based on an inventory of 180 patients in 9 hospitals.”Patients admitted to the hospital ward seem to become less ill at the moment, the length of stay has decreased by a third, and the percentage of patients that still have to be transferred to the ICU appears to have been more than halved,” said internist-infectiologist Annelies Verbon.

    She stressed that the virus still has “an undiminished major impact” on individual cases. The association did not give a reason for the less serious course of the disease. It may be due to more effective treatment of COVID-19, now that hospitals and healthcare workers know more about the virus.

    According to the NIV, regular hospital wards are currently filling up faster than the ICU, because corona patients now have less serious complaints. As a result, the Dutch health system remains under pressure, says internist Robin Peeters.

    The NIV is calling for additional measures, such as adjusted planning and assistance with the recruitment of personnel.

  • Last week on Friday, UMC Utrecht started conducting quick corona tests in a test street. It is a trial to find out how reliable the tests are. If the test is successful, the quick tests can be used on a large scale. Minister Hugo de Jonge of Public Health wrote in a letter to Parliament last week that he expects this to be from November. The tests will supplement the existing test policy.The participants in the trial also undergo the PCR test that is now administered in the test line. For the research, fifteen hundred to two thousand quick tests are carried out. The so-called antigen tests are less accurate than the PCR tests, but give a result much faster. “It looks like a pregnancy test”, microbiologist Rob Schuurman told NOS . According to him, the result is known within fifteen to twenty minutes.

    By using these quick tests, not only can more people be tested, but everyone can also be tested more often. UMC Utrecht is the first hospital to deploy the tests on a large scale in a test street. In the coming weeks, according to NOS , trials will also start in other Dutch hospitals, such as the Erasmus MC in Rotterdam. The trial at the UMC takes approximately three weeks.

  • A total of around 7 million foreign tourists will visit the Netherlands this year, the Netherlands’ office for tourism and conventions NBTC said on Monday. That is 70% less than last year, and a massive blow compared to the record of nearly 22 million foreign visitors that were expected at the start of this year.Expectations were high for tourism this year, due to a number of large events that were scheduled in the Netherlands. But the Formula 1 race in Zandvoort, the Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam, and the European Football Championship, which would partly have been played in Amsterdam, all had to be canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic also meant lockdowns and travel restrictions keeping travelers away.

    According to NBTC director Jos Vranken, 7 million foreign tourists per year is comparable to the tourism figures of the 1990s. “Almost the entire tourism sector is still in a deep slump and this will remain so for the time being. We do not expect to be able to speak of recovery until 2024,” Vranken said. Netherlands residents are also vacationing less in their own country, the NBTC said. The number of Dutch vacationing in the Netherlands decreased by 36% compared to 2019.

    Travelers also plan less vacations next year, the NBTC said. “People remain very cautious in their travel behavior,” Vranken said. In addition to being reluctant to go on holiday, those booking vacations want bookings with flexible cancellation options, he added.

    “This has a huge impact for tourism entrepreneurs. The importance of support measures and targeted investments in the sustainable recovery of the tourism sector remains unabated,” Vranken said.

  • The Dutch cabinet wants people who violate the corona rules not to get a criminal record. The judicial record of persons who have already been fined will be removed. This was confirmed in a letter to Parliament by Minister Grapperhaus and Minister Dekker on 25 September.The amount of the fine was also frequently discussed. However in view of the current increase in the number of infections, the cabinet still sees a need for firm enforcement. They say the amount of the fine (currently 390 euros, and 95 euros for minors) is an important element of this, which is why the cabinet wants to discuss with the Lower House whether a reduction in the amount of the fine is necessary.

    On Monday 28 September, the subdistrict court in Utrecht handled the first appeal cases against the massively distributed corona fines, but the suspects’ pleas found no favor with the Public Prosecution Service (OM). However the public prosecutor on duty did show understanding for the financial position of two suspects who are still studying and have no income. For them, she was prepared to reduce the fine from 390 euros to 300 euros conditional and to pay 90 euros immediately.

    The Subdistrict Court (kantonrechter) largely agreed. The fines were handed out in April, he emphasized, when the corona crisis was at its peak and the ICs were full. “Then that 1.5 meter measure is very important. Police officers can issue a warning before imposing fines. But that is not mandatory.”

  • The Netherlands has sharpened its travel advice for all of Belgium to code orange, meaning all but essential travel should be avoided. A travel warning for Antwerp and Brussels was introduced earlier in the summer. The recommendation has been introduced because Belgium has now classified Noord-Holland, Zuid-Holland and Utrecht as red zones.Travelers from these three provinces now have to have a test if they are in Belgium for more than 48 hours and must stay in quarantine for 14 days, or as long as their visit lasts – hence the Dutch warning.

    All of Spain, Denmark and Britain, plus large parts of France, the Greek islands and the area around Lisbon are currently on the Dutch orange list. Travel is still allowed to all of Germany and Italy.

    The Dutch Fall Break (Herfsvakantie) takes place between 10 and 25 October, depending on the region, but the government recommends people to limit their travel in the Netherlands as well, because of the risk of spreading coronavirus. To learn more about the government’s travel advice for certain destinations, you can check their travel planner (Dutch).

Update on Dujat & Members

  • Last weekend, the Dujat & Asunaro Golf Tournament took place at Golfclub Olympus in Amsterdam. Blessed with good weather, we could organize the event smoothly, safely and successfully at a safe distance. It was very nice to see everyone face to face again. To view more photos or learn about the tournament’s winners, you can check our website.
  • If your company has any news or updates to share in next week’s newsletter, let us know via e-mail to vangastel@dujat.nl.

Kind regards,

Jinn van Gastel
Project Manager at Dujat

DUJAT (Dutch and Japanese Trade Federation)

蘭日貿易連盟 | www.dujat.nl

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Sources: Nu.nlNOSVolkskrantJapanTodayNHKKyodo NewsMainichi