Weekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 45, 2020

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Japan’s Warm Biz energy-saving campaign [COOL CHOICE] | Ministry of Environment

Update on Japan

  • On Tuesday 3 November, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government reported 209 new cases of the coronavirus, up 123 from Monday. The number is the result of 2,251 tests conducted on 31 October. The tally brought Tokyo’s cumulative total to 31,502. The number of infected people in Tokyo with severe symptoms is 32, unchanged from Monday, health officials said.Nationwide, the number of reported cases was 864. After Tokyo, the prefectures with the most cases were Osaka (156), Aichi (85), Hokkaido (71), Kanagawa (69), Hyogo (52), Chiba (40), Saitama (30) and Okinawa (19). Six coronavirus-related deaths were reported.

    Last week on Thursday, Japan’s cumulative total of confirmed novel coronavirus cases topped 100,000, according to a tally based on official data, amid a recent uptick in the number of new infections coinciding with a resumption of economic activity.

  • Competition is heating up among three major Japanese cities to invite foreign companies as Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga aims to make Japan an international financial hub. The idea to boost Japan’s standing as a financial hub is not new, but China’s imposition of a national security law and tightening of its grip on semiautonomous Hong Kong, an Asian financial hub, is injecting new momentum into the drive. In addition to Tokyo, Osaka and Fukuoka have emerged as candidates for financial centers.Tokyo is stepping up its campaign to invite foreign financial institutions to the Japanese capital with its renewed focus on Asia by setting up a liaison office in Hong Kong. The office provides support and consultations both online and face-to-face to financial firms aiming to establish a business base in Tokyo. The local government is planning to update its 2017 document explaining its vision for a global financial city.

    “The situation surrounding international finance has become tense. We will see intensifying competition with other Asian cities,” Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said when she unveiled the plan for the liaison office. “We believe this is going to be the last opportunity for us to attract companies and human resources in the financial sector.”

    Many foreign financial institutions have offices in Tokyo that has the world’s third-largest stock exchange with about 3,700 listed firms. Tokyo ranked fourth after New York, London and Shanghai in the Global Financial Centers Index from London-based think tank Z/Yen Group and the China Development Institute.

    Higher taxes and language barriers are often cited as making Japan less attractive than other Asian rivals. Suga, who became prime minister in mid-September inheriting his predecessor’s economy-boosting program “Abenomics,” has promised to change that. “We will take a look swiftly at the tax system, make sure administrative services are provided in English and consider easing visas to create an international financial center for Asia and the world,” Suga told parliament in October.

    In Fukuoka, a public-private sector initiative has been launched to make the southwestern prefecture a new magnet for foreign financial companies. The city of Fukuoka, which has been drawing IT firms recently, opened a consultation center targeting foreign financial institutions last month. It provides support and advice in doing business in the city, with experts such as lawyers and accountants also available. “In times like this, speed matters,” a city official said.

    Osaka is also eager to raise its status. The full-day trading outage recently at the Tokyo bourse due to a system glitch and the global coronavirus pandemic are apparently giving supporters of Osaka a reason to push the area as an alternative to Tokyo. Osaka has Japan’s first integrated bourse for stocks and commodity futures. Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura has indicated that Osaka has what it takes to serve as an international financial center and it will step up to the plate if the central government is “serious” about changing the tax and visa systems accordingly.

    Financial firm SBI Holdings Inc led by President and CEO Yoshitaka Kitao is pushing for a plan to create an international financial center in Osaka and neighboring Hyogo Prefecture in western Japan, in cooperation with local governments. “The time has come to create the next-generation international financial center (in Osaka and Hyogo),” Kitao told a recent press briefing, adding that the Osaka governor had promised to step up its efforts toward that end. “We will increase our calls to make it come true.”

  • The Japanese government on Tuesday approved a bill to pay all the costs of administrating a vaccine against the novel coronavirus to all residents and to compensate suppliers in the event any serious side effects occur. The bill to amend the current vaccination law is in line with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s pledge to secure coronavirus vaccines for all people in the country in the first half of next year. His government is aiming for its enactment during the current Diet session through 5 December. To that end, the government has earmarked a budget of 671.4 billion yen.It has agreed with British drugmaker AstraZeneca Plc and U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc to receive 120 million doses of vaccine from each company when successfully developed and is negotiating with U.S. firm Moderna Inc. for 40 million doses or more. Once the government provides vaccines free of charge, residents will be strongly advised to get vaccinated. The government may still choose to offer vaccines whose effectiveness is not very high and let people decide whether they want to receive it.

    The Japanese government has been pushing for homegrown vaccines, but those developed by Japanese companies are still in the early stages of clinical studies. The government also endorsed a separate bill enabling it to quarantine those testing positive for the virus beyond February, as a one-off measure introduced in the wake of the pandemic is only effective for a year. In February, the government decided to hospitalize people who had tested positive for the virus and have those who were suspected to have been infected with the illness remain in designated facilities for a certain period.

  • Japan will lift its entry ban on foreign travelers from China, South Korea, six other countries and Taiwan from 1 November, government officials said Friday, as it gradually eases COVID-19 travel restrictions in a bid to revive its battered economy.Australia, Brunei, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam will also be taken off the entry ban list, as all of them have largely brought the pandemic under control, the officials said. Japan, however, continues to suspend visa waiver agreements with other countries and limit the issuance of new visas, meaning in most cases tourists will still not be able to visit.

    The decision, made at a meeting of the government’s coronavirus response task force presided over by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, was announced after the Foreign Ministry earlier in the day lowered its travel advisories for the countries and regions from Level 3 to Level 2. Suga said Japan will ease its requirement for Japanese nationals and foreign residents returning from overseas to undergo a 14-day quarantine period, also from Nov 1, a move aimed at facilitating business trips.

    To be eligible for the exemption, returning travelers will need to limit their overseas trips to within seven days, and for the first 14 days upon their return refrain from using public transportation and save their smartphone GPS data to aid in contact tracing, as well as submit an itinerary detailing their plans during that time.

    It is the first time Japan has lifted its entry ban on any country or region since it began putting parts of China including Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first detected, on the list in early February.

    Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi announced the lowering of the travel advisories in a press conference on Friday, requesting citizens avoid nonessential trips to these areas, whereas the ministry had previously warned against all travel there. Separately, Motegi said Japan has lifted another set of travel advisories it had issued for all countries and regions in March in response to the pandemic.

    Such advisories were issued uniformly to alert travelers of possible risks of becoming stranded on foreign soil due to tightened border controls and the imposition of lockdowns. “We will lift the travel alerts for all regions as regular international flights have started to resume,” Motegi said. “But the alerts remain in place for Syria, Iraq and other regions where security situations require caution.”

  • The capacity of coronavirus testing in Tokyo will be increased to about 65,000 per day by early December, Gov Yuriko Koike said Friday. “We will make sure that necessary tests can be conducted swiftly,” Koike told a press conference, referring to the plan that is part of preparations for the twin-threat of the COVID-19 illness caused by the coronavirus and seasonal influenza.The increased capacity was calculated based on past data, with the metropolitan government estimating that there will be around 52,000 suspected flu patients with fever and about 13,000 suspected COVID-19 patients per day. The capacity of coronavirus testing in Tokyo has been increased to about 25,000 per day from about 10,000 as of 1 October.

    The metropolitan government assumes the capital can conduct 46,000 COVID-19 tests per day by increasing the number of medical staff and working hours. It believes the remaining cases will be covered by antibody tests using simple kits. Suspected flu patients will first take flu tests, which provide results sooner. If they test negative, coronavirus testing will then be conducted.

    As part of efforts to strengthen follow-up measures on those who test positive for the coronavirus, the metropolitan government plans to recruit about 100 nurses who will make arrangements for epidemiological surveys and examinations of people who have been in close contact with COVID-19 patients. Tokyo’s coronavirus phone consultation service, which used to operate only at night and on holidays, became available 24 hours a day from Friday.

    As for the flu, so far this season, only four patients had been confirmed in the capital as of Sunday, significantly lower than at this same time last year, according to the metropolitan government.

  • The Japanese government on Monday kicked off its annual Warm Biz energy-saving campaign by encouraging people to dress warmly. However, much of Japan is yet to experience cold temperatures. In Tokyo on Monday, the forecast high was 22 degrees. Staff at the environment ministry could be seen wearing sweaters and some women had blankets on their laps.Each year, as part of the campaign, the Environment Ministry calls on offices and homes to set heaters and air conditioners no higher than 20 degrees C and keep warm the “old-fashioned way” by wearing extra layers of clothes and eating hot meals to keep out the cold. In the colder months of January and February, the ministry suggests using scarves, gloves, stomach warmers, and leg warmers or two pairs of socks during the day.

    For dinner, it recommends a traditional Japanese hotpot. “You can lower the heat if you enjoy nabe, making both your body and the room warm. The temperature will feel higher than it actually is thanks to steam from the pot,” the ministry says.

    Warm Biz was first introduced in 2005 as a follow-up to the Cool Biz campaign during the summer, but it didn’t really get much attention until 2011 when the government began promoting it heavily due to fears over a potential electricity shortfall following the 11 March disaster. The Warm Biz campaign runs until 31 March.

  • The Japanese government is considering extending its domestic travel subsidy program beyond late January due to the need for continued support for the struggling tourism industry, sources familiar with the matter said Wednesday. Although a new end date is yet to be determined, some ruling party members are calling for an extension through spring for the Go To Travel campaign, which was launched in late July to revive domestic tourism and consumption battered by the coronavirus pandemic, they said.The government will look into drafting a third supplementary budget for fiscal 2020 as well as using reserve funds in the event the campaign budget of approximately 1.35 trillion yen is used up, according to the sources. The travel campaign, which offers a 35% discount for hotels and package tour costs, began on 22 July.

    Tetsuo Saito, deputy leader of the Komeito Party (a junior coalition partner of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party) suggested to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Tuesday that the travel campaign should be extended until the Golden Week holidays from late April to early May. Saito said Suga told him that the program “is not going to end when the budget runs out, and will be reviewed according to the circumstances.” Some LDP members and local municipalities have also called for its extension.

    The end of January is “a tentative” end date, said tourism minister Kazuyoshi Akaba. “We will watch the implementation of the budget to make an appropriate decision for an end date.” The subsidy initiative covered 25.18 million domestic overnight stays in its first two months through the end of September, with the government funding a total of 109.9 billion yen in discounts, according to the Japan Tourism Agency.

  • Camping in Japan has gained newfound appeal amid the coronavirus pandemic as an outdoor activity that a wide range of generations can enjoy while maintaining social distancing. Many might think camping sites are mostly far from big cities, but Ibaraki Prefecture has more sites than any other prefecture in Japan.When a survey by the Japan Sports Agency for the fiscal year through March 2019 was released, Ibaraki had 163 camping sites, followed by Hokkaido (147), Nagano Prefecture (143) and Hiroshima Prefecture (102).

    Ibaraki, with sites reachable within a few hours from Tokyo by car, provides a rich outdoor environment, with sea, mountains, rivers and lakes. Fresh seafood is another specialty of Ibaraki. At a camping site in Oarai, one of the most popular sites in the prefecture, visitors can feast on seafood from a nearby fish market.

    Ibaraki has launched an official website specializing in camping, called Ibaraki Camp. It allocated 22 million yen in a supplementary budget this past June to attract visitors to local camping sites. Ibaraki plans to add more detailed information to the website, regarding toilets and power supply.

    The website is also aimed at boosting overall tourism in the prefecture as it gives links to sites on local food products and tourist spots. “For a start, we would like people to enjoy the attractiveness of Ibaraki when they come here to camp,” said Ryohei Komatsuzaki, 25, who is in charge of the project and a big fan of camping himself. “We don’t get a lot of snow here, so visitors are always welcome, even in the winter.”

    The coronavirus pandemic has brought along with it a surge in demand for tents. According to Yokohama Customs, tent imports slumped after an outdoor boom peaked in the mid-1990s but have been rising again since 2016. Last year saw such imports reach 10,266 tons worth 11.84 billion yen, both record highs, possibly because of a surge in lone campers.

    But as the public health crisis due to the virus has endured, imports from January through July this year have already outpaced the equivalent figure for last year. Yokohama Customs has indicated that the import trend will continue due to the increasing number of well-equipped campsites and the diversification of uses such as for disaster prevention.

The Dutch subway train saved by whale sculpture in Spijkenisse: a new internet sensation around the world.

Update on the Netherlands

  • 64,087 new COVID-19 cases were reported last week, 3,455 (-5%) less than the week before, RIVM reported on Tuesday. The lower number of reported infections was observed particularly in the last few days. This seems to be the effect of the measures that were implemented at the end of September and in mid-October.

    However, as Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said during the press conference on Tuesday evening: this is not enough. To fight back the virus more, and to support the healthcare, the government has decided to tighten measures for the upcoming two weeks, starting Wednesday 4 November 22:00 until Wednesday 18 November.

    At home you may only receive a maximum of 2 people per day. Indoors (not in the home situation) and outdoors, a group consists of a maximum of 2 persons from different households. For funerals, a maximum of 30 people applies from 9 November, and a maximum of 20 people for weddings. All publicly accessible locations will be closed, such as museums, theaters, sex clubs, cinemas, amusement parks, animal parks, swimming pools and libraries.
    The partial lockdown restrictions, which include the closure of all bars, restaurants and cafes, and working from home as much as possible, will last until at least mid-December, Rutte said. As expected, people are also being advised not to travel during the winter holidays. “The urgent advice is not to travel abroad until mid-January, unless it is really necessary,” he said. This does not include the Caribbean portion of the Dutch kingdom, because it is not considered foreign territory. For a complete overview of the measures, please click here.Besides the new measures, the government said it is considering very strict restrictions in regions which have been hardest hit by the crisis. “We are seeing greater regional differences. For regions with long-term high figures, we are considering a curfew, a further restriction of the retail trade and closing schools,” Rutte stated. “In the coming days and weeks we will look at which regions continue to stand out. Rotterdam really stands out now, but we do not know how it will develop.”

  • The Netherlands ordered 9.2 million rapid Covid-19 tests from American company BD. The first 1.2 million tests will be delivered by mid-November, BD said, according to ANP. The Netherlands had already ordered 1.2 million of the tests, which indicate whether someone has the coronavirus within 15 minutes. It now expanded its order with another 8 million tests. BD expects that all 9.2 million tests will be delivered by June next year.According to BD, the Dutch government is the first in Europe to sign a contract with the company. The BD rapid test was approved by the European health authorities in September. Last week the government said that rapid tests will be available in the Netherlands from next month. Seven large rapid test locations will open, and rapid tests will be supplied to 25 existing GGD test centers.
  • The labor union representing Dutch airline KLM’s pilots has signed a commitment to agree to salary cuts for the duration the airline receives state support to cope with a decrease in travel brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.The VNV union was the last of eight labor unions to agree to the pledge. “This brings KLM one step closer to obtaining the government loan and guarantees on bank loans totalling EUR 3.4 billion,” the airline said in a statement. “The loan package is crucial to securing the future of KLM and its network for the Netherlands.

    In order for KLM to receive 3.4 billion euros in state aid, the Minister of Finance Wopke Hoekstra demanded that all airline employees agree to the possibility of a decrease in salary through 2025. The unions were supposed to submit their approval to the austerity measure by noon on 31 October. While VNV, and also the FNV union representing some flight attendants and ground crew, said that they would not allow the airline to go bankrupt. At the same time, they said that it was incomprehensible that they would have to commit to the slashing the salary of KLM staffers if the airline had a chance at recovering by 2023.The stance of the unions led Hoekstra to pull the aid package off the table over the weekend. “It is up to KLM and the unions to ensure that the conditions set are still met. If the conditions are still met at a later time, the Cabinet will further inform your House,” he said on Saturday in a letter to Khadija Arib, the Chair of the House of Representatives, the lower house of Dutch Parliament.

    “Without this loan, KLM will not get through this difficult time,” said Pieter Elbers, KLM CEO, in a statement released earlier on Saturday. The two FNV unions involved signed the commitment clause on Monday.

  • The Security Council, the council of the mayors that head the 25 security regions in the Netherlands, called on the government to ban the lighting and sale of fireworks around New Year’s this year. The healthcare system, which is already strained by the coronavirus pandemic, cannot handle the hundreds of fireworks injuries that happen every year around New Year’s Eve, Hubert Bruls, mayor of Nijmegen and head of the Security Council, said on Monday, NU.nl reports.Last week several parties in healthcare, enforcers, and police unions also called for fireworks to be banned this year. They argued that police and enforcers already have their hands full with enforcing the coronavirus measures, and hospitals are already overflowing with coronavirus patients. Adding the fireworks chaos around New Year’s to that workload would be too much.

    “We support that call specifically for this year,” Bruls said after the weekly Security Council meeting on Monday. “There are a number of good medical arguments for this. GPs and hospitals then have less patients to care for, where they are already busy with people who have come into contact with corona.” According to Bruls, a majority of the mayors in the Security Council were in favor of a “far-reaching restriction on the lighting of fireworks”, as well as a ban on the sale of fireworks for one year.

    “There are already municipalities that are going to ban the lighting of fireworks. We now say: by prohibiting the lighting and sale of fireworks, you provide the most clarity,” Bruls said. Mayors can ban the lighting of fireworks, but do not have the authority to ban the sale. That will have to come from the central government. A nationwide ban on the lighting will also make enforcement easier.

    Bruls acknowledged that there will be resistance from Netherlands residents emphasizing the fun of the New Year’s fireworks tradition, but according to him, that can’t matter this year. “We are in the worst crisis since World War II. We all need to go back a notch in the things we normally enjoy a lot.” The Ministry of Finance said on Sunday that it will not speak directly to the unions. The government made agreements with KLM, it is up to the airline to make agreements with its staff.

  • Employers are discouraging or even forbidding their employees from using the government’s CoronaMelder app, because they are concerned about high absenteeism and its consequences if workers have to go into quarantine, trade unions FNV and CNV said to Trouw. They have received dozens of reports about this.CNV received reports mainly from retail and industry. “Employers in those sectors do not want their staff to install the corona notification app. They are afraid that they will lose their employees for 10 days with every notification from the app, because they will then have to be quarantined,” chairman Piet Fortuin said to the newspaper.

    FNV received reports of public transit- and healthcare workers being instructed not to use the app. In both sectors, workers come into regular contact with many different people on a daily basis, and there is a good chance that will include someone with the coronavirus.The app uses Bluetooth technology to track close contacts. If someone tests positive for Covid-19 and reports this on the app, it sends a notification to all app users who was close to that person for 15 minutes or more. But as Bluetooth is not 100% accurate, there are a small percentage of cases in which the app notified someone who was further than 1.5 meters away. Bluetooth also can’t take account of screens and protective gear worn, employers say.

    Explicable or not, it is concerning that employers are discouraging or banning their workers from using the app, CNV said to the newspaper. “This increases the risk of corona infections in the workplace.”

    On Monday, “artist and privacy thinker” Tijmen Schep warned that the CoronaMelder may not be as anonymous as the government claims, NOS reports. The app itself does not save your personal details, but if you are physically close to someone and know their identity, you can find out whether they used the app to notify contacts, Schep said.

    To illustrate this, Schep designed a website where visitors can see who around them uses the app, and can name other users. According to Schep, someone with malicious intentions could use such data to spread the identity of people who have the coronavirus.

  • The third quarter of 2020 saw a 16% decrease in the number of new businesses established in the Netherlands, compared to the same quarter last year, Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reported on Monday 2 November. The number of new online stores saw no such decrease, skyrocketing by 47% in the third quarter.In the third quarter a total of 46 thousand new startups were established in the Netherlands, 16% less than the 54,600 startups opened in the third quarter of 2019 – the biggest decrease. The travel industry saw the biggest decrease in new business startups in the third quarter. The number of newly established travel agencies and travel organization agencies decreased by 46%, compared to the third quarter last year.

    The hotel and catering industry saw the number of business startups fall 35%. There were 45% fewer new bars and 35% fewer new restaurants and other eateries. Startups in sports and recreation fell 34%. Education saw a 31% decrease in startups, and construction and health and welfare both saw a 24% decrease.

    However, not all sectors were equally affected by the coronavirus crisis. Trade and retail saw a 20% increase in new startups. The growth is largely due to an influx in new webshops. In the third quarter, online store startups increased by 2,060 compared to the third quarter last year, an increase of 47%.  Agriculture, forestry and fishing saw a 1% increase in the number of new businesses.

  • A bizarre accident happened in Spijkenisse on Monday morning. A subway crashed through a stop block at De Akkers subway station and landed on a work of art, suspended around 10 meters off the ground. No one was injured.The subway crashed through a stop block at the De Akkers station on Monday morning and landed perfectly on one of the whale tails of the Waavisstaarten statue by Maarten Strujs. It hung there, suspended 10 meters in the air, throughout the day and night. Artist Struijs said he was surprised that the statue was strong enough to catch the subway, calling it a work of art in itself. The removal of the metro from the statue was livestreamed in the morning of Tuesday 3 November. The cause of the accident is under investigation.In less than a day, the accident already became world news as various countries, Japan included, wrote articles about the crash and many pictures were shared on Social Media.

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.nlNOSCBSJapanTodayKyodo News