Weekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 42, 2020

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Manufacturers develop social distancing systems (view NHK video report)

Update on Japan

  • Tokyo confirmed 78 new cases of novel coronavirus infection on Monday 12 October, the metropolitan government said, a day after recording 146 cases. Monday’s figure is based on 2,713 tests. The capital’s cumulative tally stands at 27,793. The number of seriously ill patients was 25, up by one from the previous day.Of Monday’s total, people in their 20s and 40s made up the largest group of new infections, both with 20 each, followed by those in their 30s, at 18. The cumulative number of novel coronavirus cases confirmed in Japan, including infections among cruise ship passengers and crew members, came to 90,280 as of 3 p.m. Monday, up by 3,715 from a week before. The cumulative COVID-19-related death toll rose by 30 to 1,643.

    On Tuesday Tokyo counted166 new cases, up 88 from Monday. The number of infected people in Tokyo with severe symptoms is 27, up two from Monday, health officials said.

  • Japan is set to conditionally exempt business travelers and returnees from the 14-day quarantine policy currently imposed on all overseas arrivals to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, government sources said Wednesday. Both Japanese citizens and foreign nationals with resident permits will be eligible for the exemption, with no restrictions on countries, the sources said.With the 14-day quarantine policy a significant stumbling block for overseas business travel, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, placing importance on restarting economic activity, has pushed for the exemptions to move forward. The government aims to draw up measures easing entry restrictions by the end of the month, the sources added. Those eligible will be required to submit a detailed plan of their movements in the 14 days following entry into Japan, including accommodation and place of employment, they said.

    Given the anticipated burden on airport staff to handle paperwork and other inspection measures, the government plans to impose a daily limit on the number of people eligible for the exemption based on testing capacity at airports and other ports of entry. Japan has already agreed to resume business travel with both Singapore and South Korea, under which travelers are exempted from the 14-day quarantine.

    Tokyo also plans to ease a travel advisory for some of the 159 countries and regions placed at Level 3 amid the coronavirus pandemic, a warning that advises against all travel, the sources said.

    The Foreign Ministry is considering lowering the advisory for some countries to Level 2, meaning that non-essential travel should be avoided. No country is currently subject to Japan’s highest Level 4 advisory, which warns against travel as well as urges all Japanese nationals inside the country to evacuate.

  • Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi says Japan will contribute more than €110 million to an international framework to ensure that developing countries have fair access to coronavirus vaccines.The disbursement to the COVAX Facility is part of roughly €254 million in financial support Japan offered in June to the global vaccine alliance Gavi, which co-leads the facility, for five years from 2021.

    “Japan places importance…on strengthening capabilities in response to the novel coronavirus, especially the development of vaccines and realizing fair access to them,” Motegi told an online ministerial meeting on the promotion of health services. Japan has already extended more than €1.31 billion worth of aid to fight the global pandemic over a few months since February, Motegi said.

    He also said Japan will promote the supply of coronavirus treatment drugs through international agreements on patent licenses, expand coronavirus testing capacity in developing countries and support their efforts to strengthen healthcare and medical systems.

    The online meeting was organized by an international platform to promote universal health coverage launched in 2018. Japan assumed co-chair at the meeting along with Thailand and Georgia.

  • Japanese electronics makers are developing projection systems to encourage social distancing. Hitachi’s new device locates people with sensors and projects a video of fish swimming around them in a 2-meter-wide circle. The fish escape if people get too close to others.Mitsubishi Electric began selling equipment in April that projects an animation on the floor to remind people to check if a facility is too crowded. It also advises them to board elevators in small groups.

    A system developed by Panasonic warns people when an event venue is becoming too crowded by changing the color of the lighting.

    The devices are designed to help children and foreigners who cannot read Japanese and to urge them to take steps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The competition to develop such systems is intensifying as people adapt to a new normal in their daily lives.

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has driven many companies to shift to remote working, causing a significant sea change in Japan’s way of working.Leading snack maker Calbee decided in June to stop transferring employees for an unaccompanied posting. About 800 people at the firm’s head office in Tokyo and at regional sales branches were allowed to return home to their families, as long as it would not affect the business.

    The move came after the company started requiring employees to work from home in late March because of the coronavirus pandemic. Calbee was already well ahead of the pack in adjusting to telecommuting. The firms introduced it six years ago. But when the coronavirus hit, it decided to go one step further and promote workstyle changes.

    Living away from home for work has long been a common practice in Japan. When workers get transferred, many of them move alone, without their families. Calbee spokesperson Makuuchi Rie says: “By promoting new ways of working that do not confine employees to assigned workplaces, we can free our employees from the inconvenience of living away from their families.”

    Food maker Kewpie saw a new activity spring up while its employees were remote working. “Recipe Relay” sees a worker think of a recipe using the company’s products, and send it to two colleagues. The colleagues who receive the idea add their thoughts, opinions or their own ideas, then pass it on to other workers within three days.

    The idea, which was developed by young employees in Tokyo, grew into a cross-departmental project involving senior managers before spreading to other offices around the country. Kewpie says some of the ideas have already led to the development of new products.

    Spokesperson Murai Ayako says: “Many of our employees joined the company because they were interested in food. Since they are now working from home, they seem to have more time to turn their minds to food or cooking.”

    But not all companies are happy about staff working from home. Temp-staff firm Adecco surveyed 300 people in managerial positions who have introduced teleworking since April. They found that 73% “want subordinates to continue teleworking,” but 36.3% felt “time to communicate with subordinates has been reduced due to teleworking.”

  • A growing number of Japanese companies in the retail and service sectors are turning shop space into shared rental space to meet demand for telecommuting due to the pandemic. Aoyama Trading, an operator of men’s clothing stores nationwide, remodeled half of its floor space at a shop in central Tokyo to create office space for rent.The space opened on Thursday, and can be shared by users who pay by the hour. Private offices and conference rooms are available for extra fees. Aoyama Trading hopes the new business model will turn a profit as sales of men’s business wear have slumped during the pandemic.

    The company has set up large display panels at the store for searching merchandise as a way to compensate for reduced floor space. Goto Takanori, who heads new business development at Aoyama Trading, says the firm hopes to cash in on changing consumer demand.

    Meanwhile, sports club operator NAS is using restaurant space at its clubs to offer members shared office space. The restaurants are currently closed to prevent the spread of infections. More businesses are also expected to try to meet demand for workspace outside conventional office environments.

  • The Japanese government said Tuesday it will give additional subsidies to certain travel agencies, who fear the money they have been allocated under a program aimed at spurring domestic tourism battered by the coronavirus pandemic could dry up.With the number of bookings for hotels and travel packages increasing after Tokyo was added to the scheme on 1 October some agencies that were allocated relatively smaller subsidies had to offer customers discounts lower than promised by the government.

    They also had to set a limit of how many times a customer could use the discount program, even though the government placed no such restriction. Tourism minister Kazuyoshi Akaba told a press conference Tuesday the recent development has “caused confusion and worries among the people,” and pledged that the government will “continue to provide (maximum) discounts” for travelers.

    The discount rates of 35% for hotel and package tour costs and the additional 15% for coupons that can be used at shops and restaurants at the travel destinations will be reinstated by Wednesday morning, Akaba added. The minister said those who booked trips without the full discount will be compensated.

    The “Go To Travel” campaign launched in July was designed to discount hotel charges by up to 14,000 yen (€113) per person per night no matter how many trips were booked. But since travel to and from Tokyo, which was initially excluded due to the high number of new coronavirus infections at the time, was added to the program earlier this month, major online travel agencies have seen a surge in the number of bookings, with Tokyoites comprising about 10% of Japan’s total population.

    As a result, Jalan of Recruit Lifestyle Co. and Yahoo Travel set an upper limit on discounts for hotel and package tour reservations at 3,500 yen per night, while Rakuten Travel only allowed customers to use the discount service once.

  • All Nippon Airways Co. will allow its employees to take on a wider range of side jobs as it looks to help them supplement primary incomes that have been slashed amid the coronavirus pandemic, sources familiar with the plan said Saturday.Possibly starting next year, the major Japanese airline’s roughly 15,000 employees will be permitted to take on part-time work for other companies in their off-duty hours, the sources said. Until now, they were only permitted to have side jobs on the condition they operate as a sole trader, such as working as a tutor.

    The yet-to-be-announced change comes at a time when the pandemic has sharply reduced international flights as nations across the world implemented travel restrictions to contain coronavirus outbreaks, severely impacting the airline industry.

    Recently, AirAsia Japan Co., the Japanese unit of the Malaysian budget airline AirAsia Group, said it will pull out of the Japanese market altogether. ANA notified its labor union of the plan to permit a wider scope of side jobs, and the policy may also apply to other group companies, the sources said.

    ANA’s parent company, ANA Holdings Inc., in July reported a record net loss of 108.82 billion yen in the April-June quarter, citing reduced demand for air travel. With the business environment deteriorating badly, employees are expected to see their annual pay fall by 30% on average, as ANA plans not to pay winter bonuses after having already halved summer bonuses.

    ANA is also planning further cost-cutting measures including pulling passenger jets out of service earlier than scheduled as part of structural reforms to be announced before the end of October, according to the sources.

    With a rebound in air travel, particularly international services, not yet on the horizon, Japanese airlines have been facing massive financial losses. In August, Japan Airlines Co. posted a net loss of 93.71 billion yen in the April-June quarter alone.

  • Japan will consider easing regulations on the sale of an emergency contraceptive pill without a prescription, the health minister said Friday, taking a step toward allowing the kind of over-the-counter birth control already allowed in dozens of other countries.The “morning-after pill” is currently only available with a doctor’s prescription in Japan, but activists have long argued that it should be freely available to prevent unwanted pregnancies. “We would like to thoroughly discuss (the issue),” health minister Norihisa Tamura told a press conference. Tamura said he is aware that there is demand for the pill as a means to avoid unwanted pregnancies, and that the results of past government discussions on the issue will be taken into account when the ministry conducts a further review without setting a deadline.If everything goes according to plan, the pill will be available without a prescription at pharmacies next year, government sources said. Under the current rule, women including victims of sexual assault need to go to clinics or hospitals for a prescription in order to obtain an emergency contraceptive, which works best within 72 hours after unprotected intercourse.

    On Thursday, a government panel on female empowerment decided to include a policy of making non-prescriptive contraception available under a proposed five-year plan for promoting gender equality. As of Friday, an initiative calling for non-proscription sales of the pill in Japan on the online petition platform Change.org had received just over 91,000 signatures.

    Abortions are legal in Japan with some 160,000 reported in the fiscal year ending in March 2019, including 13,588 cases involving women under the age of 20, according to the health ministry.

Health Superlist 2020” – ranking major Dutch supermarkets in how easy they make the choice for healthy food.

Update on the Netherlands

  • About 40 thousand people were diagnosed with the coronavirus last week, and another 6,854 tested positive according to data from the RIVM on Monday. There were 1,300 people being treated in hospitals for Covid-19 on Monday, more than 10-times the total in early September.In the evening of Tuesday 13 October, Prime Minister Rutte and Minister De Jonge presented the new corona measures due to this major increase. “We are going for a partial lockdown, which we have to maintain for at least four weeks,” says Rutte. “That is hard, but it’s the only way.” The measures will take effect tomorrow at 18:00.

    Catering companies such as cafes and restaurants will close their doors again. Take-away is still possible. Hotels also remain open and are allowed to serve food to guests. Alcohol is not allowed to be bought in shops until 20:00. Retail stores close by 20:00 latest. Shopping evenings will be canceled, with the exception of supermarkets.

    In indoor areas where people are seated, a maximum number of people is 30. There are no more exceptions. And you can receive a maximum of three people a day in your home. “Birthday parties in shifts with multiple groups of people are no longer allowed”, says Rutte.

    Adult amateur sports in groups are no longer allowed. “A game of tennis is still possible,” says Rutte. “But no doubles, because then contact is inevitable.” Jogging with four people is also allowed. Children can therefore continue to exercise in groups.

    The cabinet is preparing a face mask obligation for education, and also for public indoor areas such as stores, which applies to everyone from the age of 13. As long as this has not yet been legally arranged, urgent advice also applies.

    Events are prohibited. Nothing will change for museums, and amusement parks for the time being, and food markets, trade fairs and conferences, cinemas and theaters, professional sports games, protests, gatherings and meetings as referred to in the Public Events Act are also exempt.

    And the previous advice still applies: work from home, unless there is no other option. Travel as little as possible. When going on holiday, stay at your holiday address as much as possible. Limit the number of trips and avoid crowds. For abroad trips, follow the travel advice from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

  • American company Johnson & Johnson hit another setback in the development of a vaccine against Covid-19. The company, which also includes Janssen in Leiden, temporarily halted the development due to a sick test subject, Johnson & Johnson said on its website.The details of the problem are still unknown. The pharmaceutical only said that the test subject became ill unexpectedly, and that it is investigating. Johnson & Johnson stressed that negative effects like illness are not uncommon in medical trials on this scale.

    Until more is known, no new subjects can be enrolled in the trials, and the current participants will not receive any further doses of the vaccine. About 60 thousand people worldwide are participating in this clinical trial. The company also asked an independent safety committee to investigate.

    Another Covid-19 vaccine, being developed by AstraZeneca, was also previously paused after a trial participant fell ill. This participant got a rare spinal cord infection.

  • The province of Noord-Holland and the municipality of Haarlemmermeer plan to cover a large part of Schiphol Airport in solar panes, 300 hectares of solar panels to be exact. The airport is open to the idea, provided that air traffic safety is guaranteed, AD reports.Most of the solar panels will be installed along the runways. The rest will be installed on the airport’s roofs and parking lots, according to the plans. The idea is to complete the installation by 2030.

    “In the Climate Agreement it was greed that 30 regions must make plans for sustainable energy,” Edward Stigter, the GroenLinks deputy for North Holland responsible for climate and energy, said to AD. The whole of the Netherlands must generate 35 terrawatt hours of sustainable energy. “As NorthHolland, we think we can account for approximately 7 terrawatt hours. That is quite a lot, but our province has many inhabitant who also use a lot of energy. The same applies to companies.”

    Haarlemmermeer is an obvious choice for solar panel location, because the municipality is extensive and has a lot of rural area that is not protected. “We simply have a lot of space,” VVD alderman Jurgen Nobel of Haarlemmermeer said to AD. The municipality is willing to cooperate with the province, as long as it is done “in consultation with our residents and the municipal council,” Nobel said. “There must be sufficient support.”

    Schiphol is also “open to the large-scale installation of solar panels”, a spokesperson said to the newspaper. “We have already provided a number of points for attention, including safety.”

  • In recent weeks, about 2,000 young people have come up with 1,500 possible solutions to problems they encounter in the corona crisis, the Youth Think Tank Corona Crisis (Jongeren Denktank Coronacrisis, JDC) reported last week on Friday 9 October.The ideas are about education, work and living. They vary from solutions to improve the quality of online education to the suggestion to let go of the current view of work. The young people submitted their ideas via a special JDC app. This app, launched last month, was created after Prime Minister Mark Rutte called on young people to tell them what they are suffering from due to the corona crisis and what their ideas are to do something about it.

    The app asks questions about obstacles to work, education and housing, but also about the opportunities the corona period brings and what young people need to continue to use these opportunities after the crisis.

    More than half of the young people who submitted an idea are between 19 and 25 years old. 70% have a higher vocational or university education. Young people with an MBO background are less present in the app. That is why secondary vocational education schools and teachers are invited to participate and make themselves heard.

    The young people can work out their ideas together from Friday. They will receive an invitation via the app. In January, Rutte receives an advice from the JDC that includes the suggestions of the young people. Think Tank-Y and the youth platform of the Social Economic Council work together in the JDC.

  • The CoronaMelder corona app is now in use nationwide since 10 October and has been downloaded more than 2.6 million times, Minister Hugo de Jonge (Public Health) announced on Twitter on Monday. A small nuance: that does not necessarily mean that just as many Dutch people use the app, those involved explain.Using CoronaMelder, smartphones can exchange signals with smartphones of other app users. Those contacts are recorded in unique, anonymous codes. This creates a log of people who have been around each other. If someone later turns out to be infected, they can warn their contacts from the past few days together with the GGD.

    “We just cannot see how many people are actively using the app,” explains Ivo Jansch. He was one of the people brought in by the Ministry of Health to build CoronaMelder.

    In the settings of the phone, people must also give permission to share data with CoronaMelder. For example, people can install the app, but not grant permission or (temporarily) withdraw it, so that CoronaMelder is not active. “But if people deactivate something, we can’t see it,” says Brenno de Winter, who was also involved in the development of the corona app.

    Since the nationwide introduction of the app – last Saturday – the ministry has seen an “idiotic increase” in the amount of traffic with the servers, says De Winter. However, these figures cannot be used to find out exactly how many active users CoronaMelder has.

    “That’s because we separate the IP address (a unique number that is associated with the phone, ed.) from the rest of the information. We are blinded by privacy,” says Jansch, referring to the choice to use the app as little as possible. possibly to collect data.

    Privacy was an important condition for the ministry to introduce the app. Because the use of CoronaMelder must be voluntary, any traceability to a person could put this principle under pressure. The team behind CoronaMelder wants to use questionnaires to find out how many people actually use the app.

  • Supermarkets say they want to make it easier to choose healthy food, but no supermarket is really keeping their promise. This is the conclusion of four health funds that commissioned research into the supply of healthy food in supermarkets.About 70% of our daily food comes from a supermarket. Supermarkets thus have a major influence on our diet, say the Diabetes FondsThe Dutch Heart FoundationThe Digestive Diseases Foundation and The Dutch Kidney Foundation. To make it easier for consumers, they had a “Health Superlist 2020” drawn up for the first time . The conclusion is that there is still a lot to improve.

    In 2018, the supermarkets concluded the National Prevention Agreement with the government. The aim was to improve the health of all Dutch people. It was agreed that supermarkets would encourage their customers to eat more according to the Schijf van Vijf.

    Various things were researched, such as the shop design, offers in the brochures and the offer at the checkouts. “82% of the offer in the brochures is for unhealthy food,” says spokesman Caroline Martens on behalf of the health funds in the NOS Radio 1 Journaal. “Seven of the eight supermarkets have unhealthy impulse purchases at the checkouts. All supermarkets are doing something right, but improvements are possible in all supermarkets.”

    They therefore do not want to speak of a winner. Ekoplaza still lives up to its promise that it wants to stimulate the sale of healthy food, but the researchers prefer to speak of a “forerunner” than a winner. Others that are among the forerunners are Lidl, Dirk and Coop. In the ranking, Jumbo is the only one listed as “average”. In the category “laggers” are Plus, Aldi and last but not least Albert Heijn.

    The health organizations want to know from State Secretary Blokhuis how he will keep supermarkets to the agreements in the National Prevention Agreement. Blokhuis says he shares the concerns. “More needs to be done to make healthy choice in supermarkets easier.” He wants all parties who have signed the agreement to stick to the agreements.

    In order to get a “clear picture” of what he can do extra against obesity, he asked RIVM which additional agreements can be made, in addition to the agreements in the prevention agreement.

    The Central Food Trade Office (CBL), the sector organization for supermarkets, says that the study ignores the progress made over the past fifteen years. “They opt for the half-full glass with a layer of vinegar on top,” says CBL director Marc Jansen.

    In November Blokhuis will meet with supermarkets and health foundations. He then wants to discuss the outcome of the investigation with them and hear how the parties will honor their agreements.

Update on Dujat & Members

  • Today at 13:00 we will go live with the online event Japan Meets Brabant – Virtual Visit Fujifilm which will be broadcasted live from the Open Innovation Hub Europe. If you forgot to register and wish to get access to the broadcast, please contact me by e-mail so we can still get you registered.
  • 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.nlNOSADJapanTodayNHKKyodo News