Weekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 41, 2020

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University students wear headgear with face shields to prevent coronavirus infection during a collegiate karate competition at Nippon Budokan in Tokyo on 4 October 2020.

Update on Japan

  • The Tokyo Metropolitan Government on Tuesday reported 177 new cases of the coronavirus, up 111 from Monday. The number is the result of 2,773 tests conducted on 2 October.By age group, the most number of infections were people in their 20s (44), followed by 38 in their 30s and 30 in their 40s. Six cases aged 10 were reported. The tally brought Tokyo’s cumulative total to 26,727. The number of infected people in Tokyo with severe symptoms is 25, unchanged from Monday, health officials said.Nationwide, the tally of infected cases was 495. After Tokyo, the prefectures with the most cases were Kanagawa (65), Osaka (59), Chiba (41), Okinawa (22), Saitama (20), Hyogo (19) and Aichi (14). Seven coronavirus-related deaths were reported.
  • Japan and South Korea plan to agree as early as this week on the resumption of business trips between the two countries, a measure the two governments halted in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, according to Japanese government sources.The entry of expatriates and other long-term residents as well as travelers on short-term business trips will be allowed in both countries, provided they have tested negative for the coronavirus test and turn in itineraries, the sources said.The resumption of such trips may lead to an improvement in the two neighbors’ relationship, which has sunk to historic lows over a string of South Korean court rulings ordering Japanese companies to pay compensation for enforcing the wartime labor of Koreans.
  • A karate championship was held in Tokyo with new guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. In June, the Japan Karatedo Federation called on karate athletes to refrain from uttering kiai shouts at tournaments in order to prevent infections through the spread of droplets.But in September, the federation said it would approve the use of kiai in the kumite sparring category, if competitors wore protective face and mouth guards as a measure to prevent infections.On Sunday, university karate athletes in and around Tokyo took part in the Kanto University Championships at Nippon Budokan. This was the first competition held under the new guidelines.

    Wearing face guards, participants in the kumite event kicked and punched their opponents while shouting energetically. One competitor from Keio University said she did not feel hindered by the face guard. She said she could focus on her performance because she was allowed to shout.

  • Last weekend was the first weekend since trips to or from Tokyo have been included in the government’s nation-wide tourism stimulus campaign, “Go To Travel”. The initiative offers large subsidies to tourists to help support the pandemic-hit economy.The country’s tallest tower, Tokyo Skytree offered a 50% discount on the admission price during the weekend. Visitors can also use special “Go To travel” coupons at cafes and other outlets inside the complex. The operator is taking extra care to follow measures against the coronavirus. The number of visitors on the observation deck is limited to 20 to 30% of normal capacity.Elsewhere, an upscale Tokyo hotel has launched a special package offering rooms at half-price. Together with the Go To campaign discount, the room rates are about one third the normal cost. The plan also includes lunch at a French restaurant in the hotel. The hotel has seen a significant increase in reservations since Tokyo’s inclusion in the campaign. The hotel expects the number of bookings will continue to increase.
  • Japan’s two biggest automakers, Toyota and Nissan, will ask Britain to reimburse them for additional custom charges incurred if the UK government fails to reach a Brexit trade deal with the European Union, the Nikkei financial daily reported on Monday.The companies – Toyota Motor Corp and Nissan Motor Co Ltd – want payments to cover the additional 10% tax on automobile imports from Britain that the EU would impose should Britain crash out of the EU without an agreement, the Nikkei said, without citing sources.Officials for the carmakers declined to comment on the report, though Nissan expressed concern about the potential impact of a no-deal Brexit on its business. “We urge UK and EU negotiators to work collaboratively towards an orderly, balanced Brexit that will continue to encourage mutually beneficial trade,” Nissan said.

    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Sunday that he did not particularly want the Brexit transition period, which runs until the end of the year, to run out without a trade deal in place, but that Britain could live with such an outcome.

    The Nikkei report, however, underscores how a failure to agree a new trading relationship could prompt foreign companies operating in Britain to reconsider the viability of operations in the face of extra tariffs that erode profitability, and customs checks and regulations that slowed operations.

    Toyota operates a plant in Derbyshire, central England, and produced roughly 8% of the 1.52 million cars made in Britain in 2018. It also produces engines at a factory in Wales. Nissan has a manufacturing plant in Sunderland, north-eastern England, which employs 7,000. That factory would be “unsustainable” if Britain leaves the EU without a trade deal, Nissan said in June.

    Nissan said in March that it was pushing ahead with plans to build its new Qashqai sports utility vehicle in Sunderland. When it first announced the 52-million-pound (about €57.1 million) investment in 2016, the carmaker said it had won reassurances from the British government that Brexit would not affect its competitiveness.

  • A nursery school in Tokyo has started serving halal-certified lunches for Muslim children. The preschool in Kita Ward has about 130 children, and eight of them are Muslims. It decided to obtain halal certification for its meals as the number of Muslim children is increasing year after year.Muslims are prohibited from eating pork and drinking alcohol under Islamic law. Nutritionists at the nursery started taking seminars in July to acquire special knowledge. The preschool has also prepared cookware which had to pass the certification process.The first halal lunch on Monday for Muslim children included tandoori chicken, potato salad, rice and vegetable soup. Ham was removed from the salad but was served to the other children. The head of the nursery school said he is glad the children and their parents are pleased with the halal lunches, and that the school is willing to do everything possible to support them.
  • Honda Motor Co. said Friday it will end its participation in the prestigious Formula One Championship in 2021 to focus its resources on developing next-generation greener technologies for electric and fuel cell vehicles. Although F1 cars have had hybrid engines since 2014, the sport still has a polluting image.Honda currently provides power units to Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Alpha Tauri. Honda-powered cars have won two races in the 2020 season and three races in the previous year after rejoining the championship in 2015.”In F1, Honda achieved a certain level of success by attaining our goal to claim victories,” Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo told an online press conference. “And now, we will funnel our strength into achieving innovations in the new field of creating carbon-free power units and realizing carbon neutrality,” added Hachigo, who said the company has no plans to return to F1.

    The company said in a statement it decided to conclude its F1 participation due to “a once-in-100-years period of great transformation” the auto industry faces. Red Bull Racing said it appreciates Honda for its “exceptional efforts as power unit supplier” with Dutch driver Max Verstappen securing Honda’s first victory since 2006 at the 2019 Austrian Grand Prix followed by three victories and 13 podium finishes in 31 race starts.

    Honda initially took part in F1 between 1964 and 1968, becoming the first Japanese automaker to do so. It returned in 1983 and dominated the championship with 15 wins out of 16 races in 1988 with legendary drivers Ayrton Senna of Brazil and Alain Prost of France. Honda halted its participation again in 1992 but resumed it in 2000 and continued until 2008.

Ernst Kuipers, Chairman of the Dutch National Coordination Center for Patient Distribution (LCPS) on the increasing corona infections (interview in Dutch).

Update on the Netherlands

  • The National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) has registered 27,485 positive corona tests in the past seven days. That is an increase of 42.2% from a week earlier. The number of hospital admissions has also increased by almost 54%. A decrease is not expected until mid-October.The RIVM expects that the effects of the latest measures against the spread of the corona virus may be visible next week. “The first effect is expected to be seen in a stabilization or slight decrease in the number of reports of positively tested persons. Only later can a stabilization and decrease in the number of hospital and intensive care admissions follow.”Some reports arrive with a delay due to processing time. However, the figures have been rising at a rapid pace for weeks. The RIVM thinks that the actual number of infections in the Netherlands is larger, because not everyone with complaints can be tested. This is partly because it is difficult to make an appointment due to busyness at the GGDs.

    The pressure on the test capacity must decrease now that steadily scaling up is taking place. The testing capacity has recently been expanded to 56,200 corona tests per day, over 6,000 more than the Ministry of Health had expected around this time. Due to expansion, fifteen thousand more tests could be taken last week than in the previous week.

  • Dutch hospitals may temporarily exchange the virus inhibitor Remdesivir with each other. The Healthcare and Youth Inspectorate (IGJ) will relax the rules on Tuesday due to the shortage of the drug, which corona patients with serious complaints will be administered.Hospital pharmacies are generally not allowed to trade in pharmaceuticals, but the IGJ has decided that in the case of Remdesivir this is allowed until 31 December. Since Sunday, the medicine is no longer delivered to hospitals.Some hospitals still have enough Remdesivir in stock, while in other hospitals shortages arise. The supply of the drug has come to a standstill, because worldwide demand is greater than supply.

    Doctors are not yet alarmed by the shortage, according to Financieele Dagblad. Mark de Boer, internist-infectiologist at LUMC who is involved in drawing up treatment guidelines for coronavirus patients, called the shortage “unpleasant” but “not a disaster”.

    Remdesivir was originally created to treat Ebola. In June, the European drug authorities approved the medicine for coronavirus patients hospitalized with breathing problems. On average, they recover faster after being given Remdesivir.

    The studies on how effective the virus inhibitor is on Covid-19 patients are divided. According to Diederik Gommers, head of the Dutch association for intensive care NVIC, about half of the studies are positive and the other half show no difference with the control group. “Because the drug is not harmful, it is still given,” he said, according to NOS.

  • If the number of infections does not decrease quickly, additional measures are needed. Ernst Kuipers of the National Coordination Center for Patient Distribution gives this warning. “We want to avoid having to scale down regular care as much as possible, and we have reached the limit for that.” He previously criticized the cabinet for not reacting vigilantly enough to the rising number of infections.Kuipers points out that the higher the number of infections, the more drastic you have to intervene to reduce it. “Nobody is waiting for a real lockdown, but then it is extremely important that we comply with the measures we have in place as well as possible.”The increase in the number of infections is not unexpected for him. It is expected that more than a thousand corona patients will be hospitalized in the coming days. Earlier it was assumed that that point would have been reached last weekend.

    But according to Kuipers, the situation remains worrisome. “It’s going a bit slower than we said before, but the upward trend continues.” He compares it to an emerging tide line, which sometimes does not reach your feet, but which you know will.

    Almost all hospitals in Noord-Holland and Flevoland are scaling down regular care by 20% in order to keep care as accessible as possible during the second corona wave, reports the Regional Consultation Acute Care Chain (ROAZ).

    Despite the collaboration with the National Center for Patient Distribution (LCPS), which helps to distribute corona patients across the country, the increase in the number of corona patients means that the hospitals are unable to continue regular care at the normal level.

    Non-urgent appointments, operations and interventions are postponed. Emergency care will continue as with the first corona wave. “We are trying to scale down 20% in a safe way,” says Yvo Roos, chairman of the ROAZ. “The difference with the previous wave is that it is now more controlled.”

  • For the time being, the municipalities of Amsterdam and The Hague see no reason to close supermarkets, night shops or parks earlier in order to avoid crowds now that the catering industry has to close earlier. Utrecht decided to do this on Monday, after it turned out last weekend that many people tried to buy alcohol after closing for gatherings in parks and on the street. This led, among other things, to long queues for a number of supermarkets that had an exemption to open after 22:00.Spokespersons for both cities told NU.nl on Tuesday that this is not yet the case in their municipality. In the municipality of Amsterdam, it is currently stipulated in a general local regulation that until 1 November from Thursday to Sunday after 16:00 no alcohol may be sold in supermarkets and other retail stores.The municipality sees next to this no reason to take other extra measures. “The goal is not to ban alcohol, but to prevent group formation. We don’t want people to come together after the catering industry has closed.” The municipality adds that the crowds are closely monitored in order to be able to make timely adjustments where necessary. The preventive closure of parks is also not an issue for now. However, outer areas of the city were closed last month to prevent illegal parties.

    The municipality of The Hague has stated in a response that it does not yet see any reason to preventively close supermarkets and night shops to curb the sale of alcohol. “In Utrecht the reason was different, because there were still lines for certain supermarkets after 22:00. We have not seen that to that extent.”

    “Of course we are also on top of it in The Hague and we do what is necessary,” said a spokesman for that municipality. After 22:00 alcohol may no longer be served in food and beverage outlets in The Hague, but this rule does not apply to retailers.

    Last weekend, the new early closing times for the catering industry applied for the first time nationwide in the Netherlands. In Utrecht, mainly young people between the ages of 18 and 27 visited each other to drink alcohol together in parks and on the street immediately after these establishments closed.

    Night shops in the municipality of Utrecht will temporarily close from Thursday to Saturday after 22:00. Some supermarkets, which previously received an exemption, will also close their shops earlier. In addition, it is prohibited to visit the Griftpark, Wilhelminapark and park Lepelenburg between 22:00 and 6:00 in the morning.

  • Rabobank customers with more than 250 thousand euros in their current, savings and investor accounts will be charged an interest rate of -0.5% from 1 January 2021. This applies to both private and business customers, and the negative interest will apply to all credit above 250,000 euros, the bank announced on Wednesday, NU.nl reports.The negative interest is calculated per account. So if a customer has more than 250 thousand euros at the bank, but spread over different accounts and no single account has more than 250 thousand euros in it, they will not be affected by the negative interest. Customers who have less than 250 thousand euros in their Rabobank savings and investor accounts will receive 0.01% interest on the money.According to the bank, very few customers will be affected by this new measures. 98.7% of all private and business customers are currently below the limit for negative interest, Rabobank said.

    However, Rabobank cannot promise that the threshold for the negative interest rate will not lower in the future. When Rabobank first applied negative interest in February of this year, it applied only to customers with more than 1 million euros in their savings account.

    Last year, ABN AMRO was the first of the major banks to announce that it would reduce the interest on savings to 2.5 million euros to 0%, and charge interest above that. The other banks followed that example.

    From 1 January 2021, ING also charges negative interest on more than 2.5 tons of deposited money.  Again, this concerns an interest rate per account and not per customer. At Triodos, the limit is even 100,000 euros.

  • Finance minister Wopke Hoekstra has told MPs he is monitoring the increase in the number of shops which do not accept cash money. Hoekstra said in answer to MPs questions that consumers should be able to choose how to pay for goods and that he wants to establish if extra measures are necessary to guarantee that choice.Some retailers have been asking customers to switch to card only and contact-free payments to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus. The Dutch central bank is currently looking into the impact of coronavirus on cash transactions, and the results will be published in November, Hoekstra said.Research carried out by the central bank prior to the coronavirus crisis shows that 97% of shops still accept cash. In Amsterdam, however, 7% of shops are ‘pin only’, as are 11% of bars, cafes and restaurants. The city’s public transport system is also cash free.
  • To show sympathy and a statement of support to all residents of the municipality in the current corona period, the Japanese community in Amstelveen has handed over a special garland of a thousand folded cranes to Mayor Tjapko Poppens.In Japan the crane is considered to bring good luck and stands for healing and recovery after a period of illness. Mrs. Osada and Mrs. Ekannan presented the special garland to the mayor yesterday on behalf of the Japanese community in Amstelveen. The thousand cranes have been folded by different groups from the Japanese community. The pendulum will be given a place in the library in the Stadshart, so that it is visible to everyone.The handover of the pendulum took place the day before the national day of remembrance on 6 October. On this day we remember the people who died from the virus, but also the loss of a job or other grief during this period.

    This summer on 7 July in Amstelveen, all people who passed away in the corona period were remembered with the ‘Heart of Compassion‘ in the City Gardens. On 6 October, the Heart of Compassion will be given a permanent place at Zorgvlied cemetery in Amstelveen.

    Hans Jansen, Chairman of SAKB KunstLokaal, was also present at the handing over of the pendulum. The Japanese community has a meeting space in the same building as SAKB KunstLokaal and does various activities together.

Update on Dujat & Members

  • Last week, invitations were sent for our Japan Meets Brabant – Virtual Visit Fujifilm event which will be broadcasted live from Fujifilm in Tilburg, next week on 14 October. The event is organized with Brabant Development Agency (BOM). It is still possible to register on our event site.
  • 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

Stroombaan 10 | 1181 VX Amstelveen | The Netherlands

Sources: Nu.nlNOSVolkskrantAmstelveenzJapanTodayNHKKyodo News