Dear OIST Community,
Yesterday, February 28, 2021, the Okinawa Prefectural Government lifted the Voluntary State of Emergency for Okinawa Prefecture. The State of Emergency called by the Japanese National Government remains in effect only in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba, and Saitama Prefectures, and is scheduled to be lifted on Sunday, March 7, 2021.
Thankfully, we have seen a steady decrease in the number of COVID-19 cases, both within Okinawa and within Japan, over the course of the last month. We have also continued to avoid any infections clusters on campus. We would like to take a moment to thank each member of the OIST community for doing their part to support the decline of this third wave of infection, and we would like to share a few updates to our infection prevention policy in light of the easing of government-recommended restrictions.
Updates to OIST COVID-19 Guidelines – Effective March 1, 2021
Travel continues to be a well-known cause of the spread of COVID-19 infection. Because of this, we ask that you:
- Carefully consider any business travel to any area still under a State of Emergency. If you must travel to one of these areas, approval from your division head is required.
- Continue to strive to take only essential personal travel outside of Okinawa.
- Take special care when visiting Okinawa’s remote islands, closely observing your health before you travel.
- A PCR testing series is still required upon your return from business travel outside of Okinawa before you can return to campus. A PCR testing series is also available for those returning from personal travel.
- Please note: PCR testing is now also available in Naha Airport.
In addition to the spread of the novel coronavirus through travel, it has become increasingly apparent that communal dining with those outside of your household or close, well-established social circle is a common source of infection clusters. With this in mind, we recommend that you:
- Wear your face mask while you are not eating during any communal dining.
- Only dine with those who you already live with or are in your close, well-established social circle (e.g., students who already live and work together on campus)
- Avoid large gatherings and those during peak business hours, on weekends, and on holidays.
Vendors and Visitors
We continue to take special care with any visitor or vendor who comes to campus to work among the OIST community. With routine PCR testing much easier to obtain, we now require that:
- All visitors and vendors from outside of Okinawa who are in contact with OIST staff or students must take a PCR test.
- If this contact is for 2 or more hours per day and for 3 consecutive days or more, they must take the OIST PCR test.
- If this contact is for less than 2 hours per day and/or less than 3 consecutive days, they must take a private PCR test in their hometown within 72 hours of their flight to Okinawa and submit their result to the Emergency Response Coordinator, Dr. Koji Fukuoka, by email.
- PCR testing is not required for vendors who will not be in contact with any OIST staff member or student.
Working on Campus
Currently the Japanese Government does not call for the restriction of university campus operations based on the assumption that their infection control methods are thorough. We are confident OIST meets this expectation based primarily on our diligent testing, social distancing, and disinfection measures—and on our continued avoidance of any measured spread of infection on campus. To support the Okinawa Prefectural Government’s guidance during the Voluntary State of Emergency, we supported staggered staffing plans beginning on January 20 when no other on-campus social distancing measures could be ensured.
Now that Okinawa has returned to the level of infection at or below that of December 2020, and because we continue to take thorough preventative measures on campus, we will return to the work from home policy that was in place before January 20, 2021. Those with health conditions that put them at a higher risk for infection, those with exceptional circumstances, and those over 65 years of age may all continue to work from home with their manager’s approval.
As has been the case for much of the last year, please continue to:
- Wear a mask when within 2 meters of another person while indoors on campus.
- Wash and disinfect your hands regularly throughout the day. Bottles of disinfectant are still freely available for pick up from the OIST Health Center.
- Avoid the 3 Cs: closed spaces, crowded places, and close-contact settings.
COVID-19 Guidance Website Update
The COVID-19 Guidance Website for Staff and Students has just been updated to reflect this new guidance and to improve your ability to find the information you need. Please visit https://www.oist.jp/covid-19/guidance and do not hesitate to send any additional questions or feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The OIST Emergency Response Committee
Dear OIST Community,
January 20, 2021 update summary:
The Okinawa Prefectural Government has declared a State of Emergency from today, January 20 until Sunday, February 7.
While OIST COVID-19 guidance remains largely the same, OIST will provide increased prevention support to staff. In addition, if sufficient social distancing is not possible for administrative staff working on campus, and if administrative staff members are able to work from home, their managers may now create a weekly schedule for their team that will rotate who works on campus and who works from home each day, effectively reducing the daily number of staff in the office until further notice. Staggered staffing plans must first be submitted to the divisional VP for approval.
A voluntary State of Emergency in Okinawa has once again been announced for a period beginning today, January 20, until at least Sunday, February 7. It has been nine months since the last State of Emergency was announced in our prefecture, and our understanding of the COVID-19 virus and effective prevention measures has increased dramatically. Our campus is not the campus of April 20, 2020. Already we have solidified our commitment to wearing masks, sanitizing our hands much more often, social distancing our offices and gatherings, swiftly tracing and testing the close contacts of any known infections within our community, and many other measures that make up our “New Lifestyle.” Because of these changes, we are already much safer than we were when we faced the first wave of this pandemic.
That being said, there is always room for improvement and enhanced prevention. In the weeks ahead, we encourage all staff members to further prioritize social distancing, spreading teams out across meeting rooms and other less utilized areas of campus and leaving doors and windows open where possible. Let us do all we can to avoid the 3 Cs (closed spaces, crowded places, and close-contact settings) on OIST campus.
PCR testing will also now be available to any asymptomatic member of the OIST community to provide additional monitoring and reassurance. If you are experiencing symptoms, please stay away from campus and consult the “Do You Need Medical Help or Guidance?” section of the COVID-19 Health Care Guidelines website.
The voluntary State of Emergency of the Okinawa Prefectural Government requests that everyone in the prefecture:
- Refrain from going out unnecessarily to prevent the spread of infection. In particular, refrain from going out unnecessarily after 8 pm. Going out to maintain life and health—such as going to the hospital, shopping for daily necessities, going to school or commuting—is necessary and may continue.
- Refrain from unnecessary and non-urgent traffic to areas where the government or prefecture has declared SOE or to remote islands in the Okinawa prefecture.
- Shorten opening hours for eating and drinking businesses. From January 22 until February 7, the target area for this request will include all municipalities, and the requested closing time will be 8 pm.
- Carefully manage employees’ physical condition and encourage them to stay home if they are in poor health. Also, promote teleworking and staggered work, aiming to reduce the number of employees by 70%.
At the same time, the national Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology guidance issued on January 8 promotes the continued and thorough implementation of infection control measures on university campuses, but does not call for university closures that would prohibit students from entering campus. MEXT asks for due consideration of the continuation of student studies, while allowing flexible consideration of campus prevention measures based on the local infection status and local government requests.
To balance these two directives, the Emergency Response Committee met this morning and, while there is no plan currently to return to a period of reduced operations like we saw nine months ago, staggered work for our administrative staff will now be possible, as coordinated by their managers and approved by divisional VPs. If sufficient social distancing cannot be achieved while working on campus, and if administrative staff members are able to work from home, managers can create a weekly schedule for their team that will rotate who works on campus and who works from home each day, effectively reducing the daily number of staff in the office. Managers are encouraged to remain on campus to ensure uninterrupted guidance for those who remain in the office. As before, any staff member with an underlying health issue is still permitted to work from home with approval from their manager.
These measures will be in place until future notice, and we would like to again extend our deep appreciation to every member of the OIST family. You have all done such an exceptional job keeping our campus safe—from the focused efforts of our Health and PCR Teams to the lifestyle changes our entire community have adopted. This will not last forever, but until the pandemic has passed, we are so grateful and fortunate to work with such a caring and conscientious group of people.
We will continue to update you with the latest guidance, and as always, please direct any questions you have to email@example.com.
The Emergency Response Committee
Dear OIST Community,
After the unprecedented difficulty of 2020, this new year has begun with its own set of challenges. Following the holiday period, many parts of Japan are experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, and the entire nation is now working together to slow the spread of this third wave of infection.
We, the OIST community, must also continue to do our part to support the safety of our campus and our prefecture. While the new year holds the real and welcome promise of a vaccine, we are not quite there yet. Until we are, please continue to keep up to date on all guidance from the Government of Japan, the Okinawa Prefectural Government, and from OIST. You can find a record of all such communications on the OIST COVID-19 Community Guidance webpage.
This week’s update:
ANNOUNCED: January 7, State of Emergency announced for Tokyo, Chiba, Saitama, and Kanagawa prefectures, with Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Aichi, and Gifu Prefectures to be announced this week. Tochigi and Fukuoka Prefectures may also be included, though this has not yet been officially confirmed.
Associated OIST Policy:
① We ask that you refrain from any non-essential personal travel to other prefectures, particularly those under a state of emergency.
② If business travel to a prefecture under a state of emergency is essential, permission must be provided by your division head.
③ If a visitor or vendor is coming from a prefecture under a state of emergency and will be in close contact with any member of the OIST community, they are required to have an OIST PCR test. Please contact Koji Fukuoka for further guidance.
ANNOUCED: January 8, Additional entry and re-entry requirements for citizens and residents:
Associated OIST Policy:
① All entry and re-entry to Japan from any other country requires a COVID-19 negative test result certificate obtained within 72 hours of their departure for Japan plus a PCR test upon arrival, effective from January 13 until the end of the State of Emergency.
ANNOUCED: January 8, Okinawa Prefecture recommends countermeasures against the new coronavirus:
Associated OIST Policy:
① Minimize any movement between the islands of Okinawa, both from the main island and between remote islands.
② The shortening of opening hours has been requested until the end of January for businesses with a focus on eating and drinking in the late evening.
PREVENTION: OIST COVID-19 prevention measures and PCR Testing remain important and effective
OIST COVID-19 Guidelines:
① Continue to closely follow the OIST COVID-19 Prevention Guidelines. These include wearing a mask, regularly washing or disinfecting your hands, and avoiding the 3 Cs (closed spaces, crowded places, and close-contact settings). If engaging in conversation during a meal, wear your mask.
② If you have any symptoms (such as cough, fever, headache), however mild, do not come to campus to take a PCR test. Remain at home and contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
① The OIST PCR test is effective, with over 190 positive clinical tests reported to the prefecture during 2020 and 3 now from within the OIST community after OIST PCR tests for returning travelers.
② Take the entire series of 3 tests upon your return from any travel outside of Okinawa. A recent OIST positive was found upon the second test. Last week we ran approximately 450 tests mainly for OISTers returning from travel, and this week we already have over 200 tests scheduled.
③ While waiting for the results of the first test, you and your household must stay at home—this includes staying away from all parts of the OIST campus including the CDC while you await the results. During the rest of the testing period, you may come to campus, but be aware that COVID-19 has about a 5-day incubation period.
④ When picking up and dropping off your PCR test at the PCR Hut, you must maintain 2 meters distance between yourself and all others, both on foot and within cars, at all times.
⑤ Register for your test here: https://groups.oist.jp/pcrtesting/registration
I hope you all had a wonderful New Year’s Holiday, and I look forward to working alongside you in 2021. Thank you for the tremendous efforts you have all already made during the last year, and I know we will all keep doing our part to focus on prevention, ensuring the continued safety and wellbeing of the entire OIST community until we see this pandemic safely behind us.
If you have any questions about, please continue to email email@example.com.
Another OISTer returning from Tokyo received a positive OIST PCR test result yesterday. In this case it was their second test, so they were on campus for two days. Fortunately they observed the OIST COVID-19 Prevention Guidelines; we have now tested their colleagues with negative first results.
This week’s experience has lessons for all those coming back from travel outside Okinawa next week:
- Continue to closely follow the OIST COVID-19 Prevention Guidelines. These include wearing a mask, regularly washing or disinfecting your hands, and avoiding the 3 Cs (closed spaces, crowded places, and close-contact settings) as much as possible.
- If you have any symptoms (such as cough, fever, headache) however mild, do not come to campus to take the test. Remain at home and contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- You should definitely take 3 OIST PCR tests after your return from any type of travel outside of Okinawa.
- While waiting for the results of the first test, stay at home; household members should also not come to campus or the CDC while you await the results. During the rest of the testing period you may come to campus, but be aware that COVID-19 has about a 5-day incubation period.
Please take care to follow these instructions, which will keep your family and your colleagues safer. Any comments or questions should be directed to email@example.com.
Two OISTers who travelled over the holidays have received positive OIST PCR tests on their return. They have not been on campus and will remain at home in quarantine, in contact with the Health Centre. Any OIST travel companions will also remain off campus in quarantine.
This emphasises the importance of taking the OIST PCR after you travel, remaining off campus until you get a negative result, and consistently following the OIST COVID-19 Prevention Guidelines. If you have any concerns or questions please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
All best wishes for a happy and safe New Year.
Dear OIST Community,
Due to the continued global spread of the new variant of COVID-19 and following the entry restrictions for those coming from the UK and South Africa enacted on December 24, the Japanese government announced that these restrictions will now apply to those entering Japan from all other countries starting today, December 28, until January 31, 2021. Depending on how the situation evolves, the restriction period may be extended.
In sum, beginning today, foreign nationals newly arriving from abroad will no longer be granted entry into Japan, while both Japanese and non-Japanese travelers with resident status must observe 14-day self-isolation period with location and health condition tracking using the LINE and COCOA applications upon their re-entry into Japan. If they are arriving from a country where cases caused by the new variant have been identified by authorities, they must also provide a COVID-19 negative test certificate issued within 72 hours before they depart from their country of origin.
Details will be confirmed and official documents will be shared with the OIST Community when they become available.
Internal Communications Lead
Dear OIST Community Members,
This is a holiday season like none we have experienced before. In a December 14 Japanese Government Task Force Meeting on the Coronavirus Response, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga suspended the “Go To Travel” campaign and asked everyone in Japan to “take basic precautions against spreading infections, especially during meals, and to carefully consider whether to travel to their hometowns during the holidays, so that we may have a peaceful new year." While there are no plans to declare another state of emergency at this point, it has become apparent that Japan has already entered a third wave of infection.
For both Japanese citizens and foreign nationals employed at OIST, this guidance runs contrary to our hopes and expectations for the holiday season after the end of a very trying year. For those of us with family either in Mainland Japan or in farther flung parts of the globe, we want nothing more than to spend time with them during this special time of the year. And for those who have found their families here on campus, the desire to gather with them to celebrate the new year like we have done in years past is strong. We all crave a return to normalcy.
We ask that you remain strong in your commitment to following the COVID-19 prevention guidelines. Continue to wear a mask and avoid closed spaces, crowded places, and close contact. If you do return from travel before OIST Special PCR Testing resumes on January 4, please refrain from coming to campus until you do have a confirmed negative PCR test result.
While the new year holds the real and welcome promise of a vaccine, we are not quite there yet. On campus, reservations for holiday party space are now restricted, and we ask that you think carefully about any other gatherings you have planned. Consider hosting a smaller gathering, an outdoor gathering, or a larger online holiday party with party games (and no daiko service required). Take the time to write letters and make phone calls, put your feet up and enjoy a good book or movie, and remember, this will not last forever.
We hope you have a restful and rejuvenating new year holiday, and like you, we are looking forward to the renewed hope of 2021.
The OIST COVID-19 Response Team
Dear OIST Community,
Beginning Today, December 24, Japan will restrict entry from the UK due to the new variant of COVID-19.
If you are a foreign national without residence status entering Japan from the UK for the first time, you will be refused entry.
If you are a Japanese resident re-entering Japan, you will only be able to re-enter the country if you have a negative PCR test result certificate issued within 72 hours of your departure from the UK. The relaxation of quarantine measures no longer applies to residents arriving from the UK, so you will have to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival to Japan as well. You will also need to use the COCOA app and your smart phone’s mapping application to record your location during this quarantine period.
If you are a Japanese citizen entering or re-entering Japan, you will be able to re-enter the country without restriction if you have a negative PCR test result certificate issued within 72 hours of your departure from the UK. If you cannot provide this, you will be required to quarantine for 14 days in an assigned location upon arrival into Japan. You will also need to use the COCOA app and your smart phone’s mapping application to record your location during this quarantine period.
There is no end date set for this new restriction, so please refrain from planning any short-term travel to the UK at this time.
You may read the document below from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology for more detailed information.
Stay safe everyone, and I hope you have restful Holiday Season.
Internal Communications Lead
Document from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology
In response to the spread of the mutated COVID-19 in the UK, we would like to inform you that today (December 23, 2020), new border measures will be enforced for entry from the UK, and the details have been announced on the homepage of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Overseas Safety.
Please check the following contents and contents of other related websites, and promptly inform Japanese students / faculty / staff who are traveling abroad and foreign students who are currently overseas and are planning to newly enter Japan.
<Overseas Safety Website: New Border Measures for the UK (Overview)>
- Suspension of new entry from the UK (excluding Japanese nationals)
From October 1, 2020, new entry from all countries / regions were permitted if the sponsoring companies / organizations could secure epidemic prevention measures. However, effective on December 24, 2020 any new entry from the UK based on this framework will be rejected.
⇒ Regarding the residence track and similar framework based on the "Step-by-Step Measures for Resuming International Traffic" announced in the administrative notification dated on October 5, 2020 (https://www.mofa.go.jp/ca/cp/page22e_000925.html), new entries of foreign residents will not be allowed after December 24, 2020.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has confirmed that international students receiving scholarships from the "Government-sponsored foreign student system" will not be subject to this measure because they will not be entering Japan based on this framework (their entry to Japan will continue to be permitted). If you have any questions, please contact the Monbukagakusho (MEXT) International Student Exchange Office.
For other projects such as JICA and JSPS, the International Student Exchange Office cannot answer questions, so please contact the person in charge of each project.
Suspension of special measures for returning or re-entering Japan from a short-term business trip to the UK (including Japanese nationals)
From November 1, 2020, 14-day quarantine had been relaxed for Japanese and foreign residents with a status of residence when returning / re-entering Japan from a short-term business trip to all countries / regions business trips if a sponsoring company / organization could assure epidemic prevention measures similarly to the business track. However, effective on December 24, 2020, the relaxation of the 14-day quarantine for returnees and re-entries from the UK under this system will end.
Strengthening quarantine measures (including Japanese nationals)
Starting on December 27, 2020, Japanese returnees from the UK will be required to submit a certificate of COVID-19 test result performed within 72 hours before the departure from the UK, just as is required for the re-entry of foreign nationals. Returnees who cannot submit the certificate upon arrival at Japan will be requested to self-quarantine for 14 days at the place designated by the quarantine station director (restricted to accommodation facilities reserved by the quarantine station).
In addition, from December 27, 2020, upon return or re-entry from the UK, Japanese nationals and residence status holders will be requested to pledge to record their location information (by downloading the contact tracing application and recording their location information).
⇒ The COVID-19 testing certificate will be required for the Japanese returnees from the UK as well. If it is difficult to find a testing institution, please contact the Embassy of Japan or Consulate General of Japan in the United Kingdom. In addition, please note that if the certificate cannot be submitted, the returnee will be requested to be quarantined at the "accommodation facilities reserved by the quarantine station" only.
Request to refrain from short-term travel to the UK (including Japanese nationals)
On March 31, 2020, Infectious Disease Risk Information Level 3 (Recommendation for Cancellation of Travel) was issued for the United Kingdom. The government requests that Japanese nationals and resident status holders refrain from short-term travel to the United Kingdom on the premise of returning to Japan for the time being.
⇒The recommendation of travel cancellation has been issued for the UK for some time, and short-term travel including private travel and study abroad / training should be postponed or cancelled.
* This measure is for entry to Japan from the UK, and there is no change to the existing border control measures for other countries / regions.
* For details, please refer to the link below.
○ Ministry of Foreign Affairs Overseas Safety Website "New border measures for the UK regarding the COVID-19"
We will keep you informed as additional information becomes available.
We ask that each university keep in close contact with foreign students who are planning to visit Japan and Japanese students who are staying overseas and consider actions to be taken for the students who need support.
○ Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare website "Q & A on drastic strengthening of border measures" (https://www.mhlw.go.jp/stf/seisakunitsuite/bunya/kenkou_iryou/covid19_qa_kanrenkigyou_00003.html)
[Contact for inquiries]
・ Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare New Coronavirus Infectious Diseases Consultation Service (Quarantine reinforcement)
From Japan: 0120-565-653
From overseas: + 81-3-3595-2176 (Japanese, English, Chinese, Korean)
・ Immigration Bureau of Japan (refusal of entry or re-entry into Japan)
Telephone: (Representative) 03-3580-4111 (extensions 4446, 4447)
・ Foreign Residents Support Center Visa Information, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Phone: 0570-011000 (Navi dial: Follow the instructions, select "1" in Japanese, and then press "5".) From IP phones, call 03-5363-3013
December 24 will be the last day OIST community members may submit a PCR test in 2020. We will resume PCR testing for the OIST community on January 4, 2021. Notification of PCR test results may be temporarily delayed once we resume testing in 2021 if the number of the tests submitted in these first few days is beyond the capacity of the OIST PCR team.
OIST will soon provide a new PCR testing kit. Please be reminded that the amount of saliva provided for the test needs to be 1mL, plus or minus 0.5mL.
If you have any questions about PCR testing, please email email@example.com
This is to let you know that the OIST staff member who received a COVID-19 diagnosis last week is recovering. Their contacts on campus who were PCR tested at OIST on Monday, November 16 received a negative result for their first test.
Thank you to everyone for continuing to follow OIST COVID-19 guidelines. It is your commitment to safety that has helped OIST to continue to thrive in 2020.
This is to let you know that we learned today that one OIST staff member had a positive COVID-19 test. The staff member was last on campus on Monday 2nd November.
Primary contacts on OIST campus will be offered a PCR test next Monday.
With best wishes, stay safe,
This is to let you know that the OIST staff member who received a COVID-19 diagnosis last week is recovering at home. All their contacts on campus, who were PCR tested at OIST on Friday 6th November, received a negative result for their first test.
With best wishes, stay safe,
This is to let you know that we learned today that one OIST staff member had a positive COVID-19 test. The staff member was last on campus on Friday 30th October.
Primary contacts from last week will take an OIST PCR test today. They will remain at home until a negative result is confirmed.
With best wishes, stay safe,
This is to let you know that the OIST staff member who received a COVID-19 diagnosis last week is feeling better after treatment. All their contacts on campus, who were PCR tested at OIST on Friday 23rd October, received a negative result.
With best wishes, stay safe,
This is to let you know that one OIST staff member reported a positive COVID-19 test on the evening of Wednesday 21st October. The staff member was last on campus on Friday 16th October.
Primary contacts from last week will take an OIST PCR test today. They will remain at home until a negative result is confirmed.
Let me take a moment to thank the OIST PCR team who are working very hard to provide testing for Okinawa and for OIST.
With best wishes, stay safe,
On September 25, 2020, the Government of Japan announced that, in principle, the holders of “Student,” “Dependent,” and other statuses of residence, in addition to cross-border business travelers of all countries and regions, will be incrementally permitted to enter Japan from October 1, 2020 under the condition that the person is hosted by a company or entity that can assure observation of quarantine measures. However, the number of people to be permitted to enter Japan will be restricted. This change does not affect the current requirements for those seeking re-entry.
This policy change requires an extra procedure in addition to the current epidemic prevention and control measures, such as a PCR test upon arrival and a 14-day quarantine after landing.
The host institution is now required to submit a written oath to both the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare after obtaining the consent of the person entering Japan. This oath and an English translation of it are attached.
The contents of this required oath include:
- The person must obtain a certificate of a negative test result for COVID-19 conducted within the 72 hours prior to departing from the country or region of stay.
- The person must carry an insurance policy with a private insurance company upon arrival.
- The person must report their health condition to the health authority during the 14-day quarantine period after landing, using a LINE talk application installed on their smartphone. The health report can be handled by the host institution on their behalf.
- The person must install the COCOA Application on their smartphone and use it.
- The person must keep a complete record of their location during the 14-day quarantine period by using a maps application installed on their smartphone.
Violation of this oath may lead to penalties including the publicization of the name of the host institution and the denial of further entry applications from that institution.
In response to this new government policy, OIST will now process the entry of employees and students as follows:
- Those awaiting entry to Japan will be contacted with an explanation of the measures and to obtain their consent to the required oath. The written oath will then be prepared through:
- the Graduate School for Students,
- HR for OIST employees, and
- the Research Unit or FAO for visiting researchers and JPSP postdoctoral fellows
- The health condition report will be handled in the same manner.
For the re-entry of foreign nationals with resident status, there is no change in the procedures as communicated to the OIST community on September 3. Please note that during the 14-day quarantine period after re-entry, you are required to respond to calls or emails from a public health center regarding your health condition. You may choose to use the LINE talk application for this health condition check.
You continue to be kept informed of further changes in procedures and measures regarding entry and re-entry to Japan as they occur.
Chief Operating Officer
OIST colleagues who were potential close contacts of the two staff members diagnosed with COVID-19 infection last week have all tested Negative.
In addition, all of the 1st and 2nd samples submitted by Child Development Center staff for PCR testing have been Negative. A third round of testing will take place soon.
The one week closure of the CDC, and the authorization of special parental leave or work from home permission, was a highly precautionary response. This was to enable full testing of staff and further disinfection of the CDC, because we had two separate cases of confirmed COVID-19 infection among OIST members last week. While both of the affected colleagues had children who attend the CDC, we have so far found no evidence of any connection.
However, it is not appropriate for children – wherever they go to school or receive childcare – to be brought onto the main OIST campus this week, or to access the main campus unaccompanied. Please do not bring children into laboratories and facilities on the science campus (Center Building and other public areas).
Thank you for your cooperation and understanding. Further guidance from HR on Special Parental Leave and temporary Work From Home eligibility can be found here:
With best wishes,
Communication and Public Relations Division
Sorry to interrupt your weekend. We held an additional meeting of the OIST COVID-19 Emergency Response Committee late yesterday. Another member of OIST staff, who does not live on the campus, became unwell and was tested by the Okinawa health authorities for COVID-19. Their test result was positive.
There is no evidence to indicate that this development is connected to the COVID-19 case we told you about on Tuesday/Wednesday. Furthermore, the colleague affected in this latest case has not attended the OIST campus since Friday 25 September.
Their partner also works at OIST, in a support section, and attended campus on two occasions last week. They are being tested and their possible close contacts are also being traced and tested.
OIST provides childcare for their family. The children have not attended the Child Development Center this week. The Provost and Vice President for University Community Services will, however, write to parents and carers shortly about precautionary steps we will now be taking at the CDC.
Please monitor your own health closely in the days ahead and if you or anyone in your family or household feels unwell, consult your family physician by telephone or email. OIST staff and students can also take PCR testing on site for their reassurance where there is any concern about infection risk. Remember, however, the OIST PCR testing service cannot accept samples from people who display symptoms. If you feel ill, please do not come to the campus.
We recognize that this is worrying for many of you but hope these steps will provide some reassurance. We would also like, once again, to stress the importance of infection prevention measures at OIST. Help and advice is available at www.oist.jp/covid-19
Please expect further updates when we have them.
With best wishes,
Communication and Public Relations Division
We advised you that a member of OIST staff became unwell at the weekend with symptoms associated with COVID-19.
They were tested by the prefectural health authority, and the result – received yesterday – was positive.
OIST acted quickly. People in the same research unit – identified as potential close contacts – were sent home after submitting test samples. A number of staff in the CDC – who provided care to a child of the affected colleague – were tested as potential secondary contacts. All of these individuals have now received negative test results. We are extremely grateful for the dedicated work of our in-house PCR testing team at OIST.
Our colleague, diagnosed with COVID-19 infection, is now recovering well. Thank you for sending your good wishes and expressions of support.
This experience underlines the importance of infection prevention measures in our community. Fortunately, the research unit concerned took careful account of workplace social distancing, regular disinfection, and mask wearing, and this helped keep fellow team-mates infection free. Staff in the CDC are similarly concerned to uphold protective measures. As we said in yesterday’s update, a child of the colleague concerned was immediately isolated and taken home, and supplementary deep disinfection of classroom space was carried out. As an additional precaution, we now require colleagues who undergo PCR testing to refrain from sending children to the CDC until a negative result for their first PCR test has been received.
Communication and Public Relations Division
I am writing to let you know that a research unit member of staff (whose privacy we are required to protect) was tested for COVID-19 by the Okinawan health authorities after developing symptoms of concern at the weekend. The test returned a positive result.
This colleague has not attended the OIST campus since Friday last week.
As soon as we were informed of the first test result, only a few hours ago, the COVID-19 Emergency Response Committee implemented precautionary steps. Staff in the same research unit were sent home. We are now using OIST’s on-site PCR testing service to screen these colleagues.
The colleague who has tested positive has a child enrolled at the OIST Child Development Center (CDC). The infant was today immediately isolated, before being taken home. The baby room at the CDC is undergoing additional rigorous disinfection. CDC staff, who may have had close contact with this child, have been offered PCR testing. Parents will be advised as soon as possible in the event of any additional measures being required at the CDC.
I hope you have confidence in our commitment to communicate regularly and transparently once facts are established and when action is needed. Our expert team in Health and Safety works alongside clinicians and scientists at OIST to ensure comprehensive readiness and response, which includes liaison with all relevant authorities.
We are, above all, thinking of our colleague and their family, and I know you will also be thinking of them and sending every good wish.
Remember, if you have any symptoms of concern, do not come to the OIST campus. Instead, email or call the OIST Health Center.
The response required from all of us now is one of heightened vigilance and ever more careful adherence to our infection prevention measures. These are all set out at www.oist.jp/covid-19. These pages include a guide to the free PCR testing service following travel at OIST, information on the vital COCOA smartphone contact tracing app, and links to sources of support for your overall well-being from Ganjuu and elsewhere.
Thank you for wearing a mask, for disinfecting your hands often with alcohol-based gel or soap and water, and for avoiding closed spaces, close conversations and crowded areas.
We will update you as needed. Please take care in the meantime, and thank you for your contribution to OIST and your care for others.
All the best,
Communication and Public Relations Division
I hope you will enjoy this long weekend. Monday and Tuesday are consecutive national holidays in Japan. Regular business hours and operations on our campus resume on Wednesday.
PERSONAL OVERSEAS TRAVEL AND QUARANTINE: AN UPDATE
As we all know, the Government response to SARS-CoV-2 in Japan has severely impacted the family lives and work-life balance of colleagues.
There has been very little scope for OIST to challenge the restrictions imposed.
Continuing border closure to non-residents, the protracted withdrawal of re-entry rights for foreign residents between April and the start of this month, and the recently announced exit/re-entry requirements, which include a compulsory 14-night quarantine, have all added to the anxiety of OISTers.
We recognize that this has made your lives here more challenging and unsettled.
OIST appreciates that colleagues wishing to make personal travel arrangements in order to visit relatives and friends overseas still face significant Government-imposed barriers. Many staff have been concerned that their remaining or overall personal leave allocation makes a trip very difficult to fulfil with compulsory self-isolation for 14 nights in Tokyo or Osaka. For this reason, the President has decided that OIST will grant those who take a personal overseas trip, while restrictions are in place, ten days of special leave to cover the 14 night quarantine. This is an exceptional response in extraordinary times and will hopefully make a visit to friends or family more feasible. We hope that it will alleviate at least some of the difficulties many of you are living through.
The full process for foreign residents to obtain permission from the Immigration authorities to exit Japan and then re-enter the country is set out at www.oist.jp/covid-19. Remember, you can only seek this permission within one month of your trip. Separate, individual applications are required. You must have medically endorsed proof of a negative PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before re-entering Japan. You will be tested again and interviewed by quarantine officers at Narita, Haneda or Kansai. You must have secured suitable quarantine accommodation for 14 nights, with private transportation to get you there. It is not possible at the moment to fly into Naha from overseas. Immediate onward connection to Okinawa from Tokyo or Osaka is not allowed by Immigration. You must spend two weeks of quarantine close to the airport of arrival. International flights to Japan are currently operating only from Tokyo and Osaka Kansai. It is expected that Nagoya Chubu Centrair, Fukuoka and Sapporo Hokkaido will be next in line for reopening of direct international routes, but the authorities in Okinawa are lobbying hard on Naha Airport’s behalf.
COVID-19 : OIST WORKING TOGETHER TO KEEP US ALL SAFE
Government regulations on COVID-19 have not changed since our last update. There continue to be clusters of cases across Japan. The authorities remain concerned to ensure that we all adopt the ‘new lifestyle’ and avoid the ‘three C’s’ – confined and poorly ventilated spaces, close contact settings with close conversation, and crowded places. The number of confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection is dipping in Okinawa after a worrying and sustained spike. Until very recently our Prefecture had the highest rate of infection and spread in Japan, and the risk of this happening again remains serious.
The measures we have put in place at OIST are therefore critical. We require you to adopt them as part of your everyday life and work for a good while to come. You are expected to wear a mask on campus and especially in public areas (except when eating or drinking, or when working within a small team of colleagues who have agreed to work without masks in a dedicated workspace or laboratory which is not routinely accessed by others), in elevators, when in close contact situations, or in groups. You must regularly disinfect your hands using soap and water or an alcohol-based disinfecting gel.
As you know, our PCR testing capability has increased, and we now have a drive-through test kit collection and drop-off facility in the large open-air car park at the main entrance. All of the information you need on PCR testing is at www.oist.jp/covid-19 PCR testing is mandatory following business travel. We also encourage OIST staff and students to undertake free PCR testing whenever you have traveled outside of Okinawa, or if you have cause for concern that you may have been exposed to the virus. Remember that testing is not appropriate if you have any symptoms of COVID-19 infection. If this is the case, do not come to campus. Stay at home. Call or email the OIST Health Center for advice.
Take care, stay safe, and please do enjoy your weekend.
Communication and Public Relations Division
The OIST Covid-19 Emergency Response Committee (ERC) met this week to discuss the current situation in Okinawa, to review the OIST PCR Testing service for staff and students, and to consider responses to latest COVID-19 travel and visa rules and procedures announced in Tokyo.
1. Okinawa Prefecture Emergency Measures Extended to September 5 2020
Okinawa Prefecture Government extended its emergency measures until September 5.
This did not require us to change the way we are responding to COVID-19 at OIST.
Please continue to adopt the careful infection prevention steps and strict social distancing which has proved so effective since February. We have had no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at OIST. This remains the case.
As you appreciate, we cannot be complacent about the ongoing risk and must not lower our guard. The actions we are all taking on campus will be an everyday way of life for a good while to come.
So – please avoid closed or confined spaces with poor ventilation wherever you can, avoid close contact within two meters, and avoid congested areas and minimize crowding. Wear a mask. Regularly wash your hands or use disinfectant alcohol-based gel. Stay away from the office if you have any symptoms which concern you. Call or email the OIST Health Center.
2. PCR Testing at OIST
Following a pilot period, after the rapid development of testing capability at OIST, we have now rolled out a wider PCR Testing regime for OIST staff and students. Thank you to the laboratory team and all of those who have helped establish and run this vital project. Soon we will install a new booth for free testing of OIST staff and students. This will be situated in the large car park at the OIST Entrance. In the meantime, we express continuing and deep gratitude to our security staff for their dedication and care in assisting the service.
If you collect or submit a testing kit, please do not crowd around the security booth. Try to form a line and maintain two meters distance from others. Wear your mask and please do not touch the staff when you pick up or drop off your test. Try not to lean into the booth to speak with Security staff. You may also prefer to bring your own pen to mark your test sample with the unique registration number emailed to you in advance.
If your first test is negative, you will need to take two further tests. Separate registration is required for each of the three tests. We have updated and improved the guidance for OISTers on when and how to take free PCR tests. This is available at www.oist.jp/covid-19
Remember: if you have symptoms of concern, do not undertake PCR testing. Stay away from work and contact the OIST Health Center by telephone or email.
3. Exit and Re-Entry to Japan: Latest Government Announcement
You may have seen in the Japanese and national English-language press that the government has adjusted rules for residents who have been unable to exit and re-enter the country since April.
From now, foreign nationals with residence status in Japan will be allowed to re-enter the country regardless of visa type or when they departed. However, strict procedures remain in force, and these will impact business and individual travel in the period ahead.
Foreign residents leaving Japan must now obtain a receipt for request of re-entry from the Immigration Services Agency before departure. Before they fly back to Japan, they must also be tested for COVID-19 no more than 72 hours prior to their departure at a medical institution and have the doctor sign a certificate saying the results were negative.
Details for this process, including the form and email address, are attached.
Essential overseas business travel is permitted under these new exit and re-entry rules. Quarantine will be covered by OIST, but only when it is part of essential business travel.
The Provost and VP HR are considering the impact on personal travel by faculty, staff and students, and are continuing to develop relevant policies. For now, OIST will allow five days of additional quarantine ‘special leave’ – only once per year – for those who travel for personal reasons. However, the vacation period itself, and remainder of the 14 night quarantine, must be taken from available annual leave allowances and the quarantine period will not be eligible for teleworking. A more fully developed policy on teleworking in quarantine, and longer term policies for home working, will be presented by the Provost and VP HR to a forthcoming meeting of the Executive. Colleagues will then be updated on the outcome.
Good morning everybody,
We promised to update you in the event of a further COVID-19 announcement by Okinawa's Governor.
Mr Tamaki addressed the Prefecture yesterday evening. He underlined a number of requests and made some additional points.
However, as we predicted on Wednesday, there was no call for colleges and universities to severely restrict normal business and on-campus activities (subject to the careful infection prevention measures in place). This means that arrangements and requirements at OIST are unchanged.
Thank you in anticipation of your continued cooperation and vigilance, and we will appreciate your special effort to stick to the steps outlined in recent days.
The Governor extended current emergency measures in Okinawa from August 15 to August 29.
He issued a Level 4 warning, which is the highest tier of alert. This asks people to refrain from going out unnecessarily. School runs, commuting for work, and shopping for food and medicine, are all essential tasks. Other trips, however, should be considered with care. The announcement emphasises avoidance of clubs, bars and downtown entertainment zones after 10pm.
In addition, shopping trips, wherever practical, should be undertaken by individuals, not groups.
Okinawa Prefecture Government has not prohibited inbound tourism but the Governor has asked mainland visitors to think carefully and to consider seriously the risks to themselves and others, and the responsibility of their actions.
As yet there is no clear direction on school operations, as these are decided at local level.
On this, and all other matters, we will of course do everything we can to keep you posted, keep OIST running smoothly for all of us, and - most importantly - help keep you safe.
President Gruss chaired a meeting of the OIST COVID-19 Emergency Response Committee (OIST COVID-19 ERC) at 12.00 p.m. today.
At this session, the group:
- discussed the current situation on campus
- reviewed possible future measures at OIST, when/if needed
- assessed Okinawa Prefecture infection data and Government actions
There have been no confirmed cases of OISTers with COVID-19.
Okinawa now has the most rapid rate of COVID-19 infection in Japan. Healthcare resources on the islands are under sustained pressure.
We understand that Governor Denny Tamaki may introduce additional emergency measures in the hours or days ahead.
As soon as we have any details, we will tell you.
We will also explain if OIST and its operations are directly affected by any new regulations. It is not certain that a formal announcement will seek to restrict operations at college and university campuses.
What is certain is the need for sustained cooperation and full adherence to our infection prevention measures.
Should you have symptoms, stay at home. Do not come to the OIST campus. Contact the OIST Health Center by telephone or email.
Please help protect and reassure your fellow OISTers:
- Wear a mask as recommended. Lots of your colleagues are deeply anxious and highly upset when fellow OISTers choose not to do so. It is the number one worry expressed to our information line. Please follow the OIST advice on masks and respect the feelings of others.
- Avoid crowding. Prevent close contact. Don’t gather in confined spaces.
- Wash your hands often, or make regular use of disinfecting hand gel.
- Install the COCOA track and trace app on your device and make sure that Bluetooth is enabled on your handset at all times.
Expansion of Free PCR Testing for OIST staff and students
We can today announce increased capacity in free PCR testing at OIST and increased availability of testing for OIST staff and students.
Thanks to hard work and expertise in the Office of the Provost, we now have the means to test 375 people each day, Monday to Friday.
If you have traveled outside of Okinawa, take a test.
If you are symptom free, but feel worried about being infected, or think you have been at risk, you can now take a test.
But remember – if you have symptoms – stay at home and contact the Health Center by telephone or email.
Here are some further reminders of policies in place at OIST:
- No international business travel.
- Domestic business travel is permitted, but PCR testing is required upon return, and all alternatives (such a video conferencing) should be considered first.
- Any vendors coming to campus in support of our operations must wear a mask and must follow infection prevention guidelines.
- There should be no general visitors on campus (laboratories, offices, meeting spaces). Family members should consider very carefully the need to visit laboratories and offices. Visitors to residential accommodation in the OIST Village are permitted, but infection prevention measures really are essential.
- In response to the current wave of infection in Okinawa, we have decided not to proceed with larger events for the time being. Avoid large meetings (more than 5 participants) by using Zoom. Wherever colleagues meet, the space being used should be large enough to accommodate twice the number of people present, and close conversations, or close proximity groups, must be avoided. Open doors and windows wherever you can.
Realistically, any complex event planning should look ahead to the Fiscal Year 2021. It is not possible to say with certainty when big on-campus events (including large academic workshops and conferences, cultural performances, sizable social gatherings) can resume. This depends on COVID-19 infection waves, and the adequacy of detection and containment measures being developed and put into place in Okinawa.
Please be assured that the OIST COVID-19 ERC is in close and regular contact with Government, public health officials, and relevant sources of information, and we are assessing the situation on a daily basis.
Stay safe, take care and support one another, and all the best in your continuing good work at OIST.
Thank you to those who were able to participate in our 3rd Online Forum on COVID-19 which we held last Friday via Zoom. Despite some technical glitches, caused by unstable outside broadband (for which apologies), we were able to address all of the questions submitted, and follow-up helpfully with colleagues.
The situation on campus today, August 11th, 2020, remains that we have no confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 among OISTers.
However, the critical importance of our infection prevention campaign, our ability to undertake PCR testing on site, and our strong commitment to ‘track and trace’ has been highlighted in recent days. One of our essential vendors informed us that one of its employees had visited OIST and met with a small number of OIST staff. This vendor’s representative tested positive for COVID-19 a day later. The OIST leadership commissioned a full clinical and risk assessment, those who had met the individual were contacted in confidence, and were tested. All of the OISTers, and other vendor staff who had any contact with the person concerned, have since returned negative results.
Please do not underestimate the importance of installing the COCOA track and trace app on your device. Should OISTers be exposed to heightened infection risk off campus, or at OIST, testing and tracing will have a vital role. If you have contacted a person with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 off campus, please take an OIST PCR test. Details about both the app and PCR testing are available at www.oist.jp/covid-19
Mask wearing, social distancing, regular disinfection, and avoiding the 3Cs (close contact settings; crowded places; confined spaces) are helping keep COVID-19 at bay.
For your information, here is a column written by the President published in the Ryukyu Shimpo over the holiday weekend, which stresses the importance of testing in Okinawa:
Thank you for your attention, and for playing your part in keeping our community safe and well.
As we know, international business travel is not permitted, personal travel outside of Japan is extremely difficult, and domestic travel needs to be avoided, or – if essential – undertaken with great care where video options aren’t feasible.
Many of you have asked about this.
I thought it might be useful to share with you the key aspects of this process. OIST can of course help where we can, but much of the emphasis will be on the individual, so awareness is helpful.
Japan’s border with many countries remains closed except to those with a Japanese passport and to a very small number of permanent residents and their dependents. For the vast majority of non-Japanese passport holders at OIST, the right to re-enter Japan will only be available after current restrictions are lifted. At present, if you leave Japan, you are unable to return.
However, the Japanese government issued a notice two months ago which allows Immigration Adjudicators to permit re-entry on ‘humanitarian grounds’ in a very limited number of ‘exceptional circumstances’.
These circumstances are: bereavement; critical illness; serious medical matters affecting your immediate family members; or surgical re-examination for yourself which could not be undertaken near your base in Japan. Other reasons could, in theory, be given, but there are no chronicled examples of others that I am aware of.
If you are directly affected by any of the serious situations described in (4), and must go home but return to Japan soon afterwards, you will be asked to report to a separate desk within the Immigration Hall, before the Passport Control booths. There, an adjudicating officer will question you about these circumstances, and you must be able to provide:
- Evidence from a physician or hospital, or from a public authority (such as a registrar) which also needs to be translated into Japanese.
- If your visit relates to a close (mother, father, sibling, child) relative, you should submit evidence of relationship (birth certificate, marriage or civil partnership certificate) which also needs to be translated into Japanese.
- A short letter from your employer in Japanese.
- Your Certificate of Employment, in Japanese. These can be requested through the HEART portal and the HR team has gone the extra mile to produce them quickly for those in urgent need.
However, you should bear in mind that the final decision on re-entry is made when you return to Japan. At the outbound stage, the Immigration Adjudicator will review your case and documentation, and confirm in principle that you appear to meet the criteria. Your exit/re-entry card will be stamped to say that you are leaving the country in special circumstances, and a letter will be attached to your passport detailing the documentation you must provide upon return, to permit re-entry. This requires careful preparation of supporting materials while you are overseas. You will very likely be asked to provide:
- Certification (in the event of bereavement) or a further medical update, again, with Japanese translation.
- Documentary proof of relationship, again, with Japanese translation, if the visit was to attend to others.
And, furthermore, should your circumstances be accepted, you must also be able to demonstrate that you will comply with quarantine requirements. You should have arranged 14 days of personal lockdown accommodation (your own expense) within reach of the airport (which the Quarantine Inspector must review and agree) and you must be able to travel there by hire care or with a personal transfer (your own expense). You will not be permitted to use any ‘walk up’ fare paying public transportation from the airport, or elsewhere, during the following fortnight. In practice, this means negotiating with an apartment or hotel to accept you. Not all will. Some do, but you will have to sign an undertaking to stick to their rules. You should also arrange for a local friend to transport you, if they are available, or book an independent chauffeur-style transfer. These are much more expensive than taxis, but taxis are strictly disallowed.
When you leave your country of origin to return to Japan, you will probably need to explain your case and present your paperwork in detail to your airline check-in staff. They will be under orders to review each non-Japanese passenger traveling to Japan, in the event that entry is denied upon arrival, and the carrier will have to bear the cost of repatriation.
After you touch down in Japan, and your aircraft reaches its gate, here is the process:
- An Immigration and Quarantine official boards the plane and makes a long announcement describing the process and rules. During your flight you will have filled in a Quarantine Questionnaire and a Health Declaration, as well as the usual Landing Card and Customs Declaration.
- You disembark and immediately sanitize your hands and must be wearing a face mask.
- You will then be taken to a Quarantine desk, where you sign an oath in relation to your Health declaration, and have your temperature taken. Your personal quarantine arrangements are reviewed and they are either accepted or you are advised to modify them.
- You then proceed to a clinic style environment within the Arrivals Hall and submit a saliva test. You are issued with a barcode reference for this PCR Testing.
- The wait time for PCR testing at Osaka Kansai is two to three hours. If you have a Negative test result, you are then allowed to approach the Immigration Passport Booths, where the queue is strictly enforced with a two meter social distancing rule. The officer will carry out an initial check of all paperwork, and give you a number. You will be asked to wait in a seating area (you cannot yet enter Japan) while a senior adjudicating officer assesses all documents, and interviews you where required. This is when the decision is taken. If everything is in order, you will then be stamped into Japan with re-entry permission. If things are not in order, you will be repatriated, although there is a right of appeal to the Ministry of Justice
- You go to Customs and your baggage is checked.
- You go straight to your private transport and must travel immediately to your agreed quarantine location, for the period marked on your quarantine document. You are essentially on a ‘lockdown’ during this time. Food and drink must be delivered to you, you must avoid public areas, and you cannot have guests or visitors.
I hope this is helpful, but unnecessary. Take care, stay safe, and thanks for the science and your continuing exciting work.
Yesterday evening, in response to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Okinawa, Governor Denny Tamaki declared emergency measures, which are effective from now until August 15.
These do not include a request for business closure by universities - but it is important that our COVID-19 prevention and containment measures are adopted with even greater care. As individuals we should do everything we can to meet the Governor's requests.
The declaration asks us to refrain from unnecessary journeys within Okinawa over the next two weeks. Travel should be for limited purposes only, such as commuting to work, food shopping, or to receive medical care. Leisure travel is discouraged.
The business hours of restaurants in Naha City are being restricted, and the Prefectural government has specifically requested the closure of entertainment facilities such as pubs, clubs and bars in the Matsuyama area, where infections have been concentrated.
We are all encouraged to refrain from unnecessary travel between Okinawa and other parts of Japan. Essential business trips are still permitted by OIST staff, but alternatives such as video conferencing should be prioritised. Governor Tamaki has also asked the people of Japan carefully to judge the need for inbound travel to Okinawa during the next fortnight.
Remote islands in our prefecture have more limited and vulnerable medical and healthcare services. Please therefore refrain from non-essential travel to other islands. Essential business trips, visits to OIST by colleagues based in remote islands, and field work activities, will all still be allowed.
For the next fortnight it will also be even more important for OIST to limit carefully the number of participants at gatherings. Numbers should not exceed 100, and in all cases - as we currently require - the venue should be large enough to accommodate twice the number of people present.
We will update you after the weekend in the event that any additional measures are needed on campus.
The OIST Emergency Response Committee for COVID-19 met recently, and VP CPR has set out the key points from the meeting below this message.
I know that you will be noting with concern that Okinawa is currently experiencing a spike in new infections, with rising community transmission linked to recent cases at the United States military bases, and the resumption of travel.
It is important for us to know that the result of all mandatory PCR testing taken by OISTers who have traveled on business; the result of all voluntary PCR testing by OISTers after personal travel; and the result of all testing of OISTers for any other reason (like health symptoms, or concern over possible close contact with individuals) has been negative.
Nothing is more important to us than keeping you all safe, well, and properly informed. A duty of care extends to every one of us, so please try to be realistic and understanding about the extent of the information OIST can circulate. We are required to respect data privacy and medical confidentiality. However, I can promise you that in the event of any confirmed case of COVID-19 at OIST we will take rapid steps to ensure that you are all appropriately notified, and given the best possible advice.
The ERC takes careful account of government advice and regulations. OIST is also very fortunate to have scientists who assist agencies around the world, in addition to researchers working on deeper understanding of this virus, seeking effective ways to combat it.
Events will remain fast moving and the rules in both Okinawa and Japan are subject to rapid change. We regularly review our own plans for safe operation on campus. www.oist.jp/covid-19 contains guidance on the measures required for your safety, plus information about the support we have in place. Until an effective SARS-CoV-2 vaccine is delivered, it is inescapable that OIST – with the rest of the world – will have to live with the reality of COVID-19. Fortunately, there are things that we can and should do, and these are summarized in the briefing (below).
The journey toward taming or even extinguishing SARS-CoV-2 remains hard to map out. I think we must accept that we face an uncertain situation well into the year ahead. Thank you, then, for your understanding and your support for one another. Thank you in expectation of united effort to implement the measures we ask you all to adopt; and – above all – thank you for continuing to put your extraordinary talent to work across our campus throughout this challenging period.
Stay safe and well.
LATEST UPDATE: OIST COVID-19 EMERGENCY RESPONSE COMMITTEE
This week’s meeting of the OIST COVID-19 Emergency Response Committee was chaired by the President and attended by the Provost, the Chief Operating Officer, VP Financial Management, VP Communication and Public Relations, the OIST Industrial Physician, the Emergency Response Coordinator, and secretariat.
Recent data on infections in Okinawa and other prefectures of Japan was shared. The Committee noted that to date our PCR testing facility has recorded no positive test confirming COVID-19 infection at OIST.
While COVID-19 is impacting communities around the world, there are important things OIST can do to lessen its impact.
We can PREVENT it, we can TEST for it, we can take steps to TRACE it, and we can help CONTAIN it.
Since January, OIST has heightened its infection control procedures, with more frequent cleaning and disinfection. Screens are being used across the campus, especially in our reception and service areas.
Throughout OIST you will find hand sanitizers and surface disinfectants. We need you to use these on a regular basis. There are plenty of hand-washing stations around the campus. Please wash or disinfect your hands often and try to use soap and water for forty seconds, scrubbing all parts of your hand and wrist.
Whenever you can, keep at least two meters apart from other people.
On campus, wearing a face covering is now required in a majority of locations. Face coverings should cover your mouth and nose. Public health officials in Japan acknowledge risk from heat stroke in hot and humid conditions. Outside, a face mask is therefore not advised. However, even when you are outside, if you have close discussion with another person (within two meters), a mask is recommended.
It is essential to wear a face covering in OIST corridors, busy spaces, larger open plan offices, lecture theatres and teaching rooms, in queues, elevators, on board OIST transportation, and in any of our more congested environments. Colleagues in Jimmy’s kindly request that you wear a face mask on their retail premises. Please respect their feelings and concern.
Of course, it is not possible to wear a face covering while eating or drinking, and it is also less critical to wear a mask in individual laboratories, or in offices used mainly by a small and consistent team. This is a local decision, for you and your closest colleagues. However, please assess the feelings of others, and try to respect social conventions here in Japan.
Mask wearing at OIST should not signal nationality, age, or professional position. We would like it to be a shared and concerted effort.
Wherever you are, avoid the 3Cs – closed, poorly ventilated spaces; crowds; and close contact.
Thanks to skilled colleagues and infrastructure, OIST has rapidly developed PCR Testing capability. We now have the ability to test staff, students, visitors and family members whenever circumstances or medical opinion warrant it. The guidelines and application materials are at www.oist.jp/covid-19
If you start to feel any of the symptoms of coronavirus (see www.oist.jp/covid-19 ), no matter how mild, you should stay at home, and contact the OIST Health Center by email or telephone. DO NOT COME ONTO CAMPUS. Free testing will be arranged.
Business travelers are already required to undertake PCR testing upon return from OIST funded trips. This is free of charge.
New hires must undertake PCR testing before taking up their role on campus. This is also free of charge.
OISTers continue to be encouraged to undertake voluntary testing after personal or leisure travel. This is free of charge. Areas of Japan with rising infection numbers are Hokkaido, Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa, Saitama, Aichi, Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, and Fukuoka prefectures. If you have been in any of these areas, do arrange OIST PCR Testing.
If you have specific concern for family members or others in your household as ‘close contacts’, Dr Mori will assess this and any testing recommended by the clinic will be free of charge. Please contact the OIST Health Center for guidance.
We also now recommend OIST PCR Testing if you live in, or have visited, a US base in Okinawa and have had close contact or conversations within two meters without wearing a mask.
TRACE AND CONTAIN
Rapid tracing within our OIST community will be much more effective if we secure widespread adoption of the COCOA tracing app which has been developed by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. This should be downloaded to your personal devices. Further details are at www.oist.jp/covid-19 .
If our clinical/occupational health team understands that you may have been in close proximity with someone at raised risk of infection, or if one of your colleagues has actually tested positive for COVID-19, you will be contacted. Any testing recommended will of course be free of charge.
Any member of OIST staff or their household (including children at the CDC or After School Program) who tests positive will be contacted by Okinawa public health authorities and required to follow the direction of health officials in the Prefecture.
Today there are reports of two school closures in Okinawa. At each location a single child has tested positive for COVID-19.
If your family is affected by this, please do not bring any of your children to the CDC, or to the OIST After School Program, starting Tuesday July 21, 2020. You can work from home from tomorrow.
Please be aware that COVID-19 symptoms and evidence of infectious virus do not show up immediately.
You should therefore be cautious in your contact with colleagues and friends over the long holiday weekend. Please follow all of our infection prevention and social distancing advice with care. This is posted at www.oist.jp/covid-19.
On Monday 27 July we would like OIST staff and students who are parents or carers of children attending the closed schools to take a PCR test and then work from home for the rest of the day. You may return to campus on Tuesday if the first test is negative, and you will then take two further tests in the normal way.
Thank you for your care and cooperation. Please remember that firstname.lastname@example.org can assist you with queries and concerns.
The OIST Emergency Response Group met late this afternoon, Monday July 13, 2020, chaired by President Gruss.
The meeting discussed recent developments in Okinawa. A relaxation of national travel restrictions has seen new cases on the island, and colleagues will have seen international media reports about a significant number of infections at US military bases on our island.
Okinawa Prefecture Government advise there have been 38 COVID-19 cases at Futenma base, and a further 23 at Camp Hansen. These infections appear to have been contained by strict lockdown, and there is no evidence of widespread infection on the island.
However, this demonstrates that we cannot lower our guard.
The “Go To….Campaign” – which starts later this month – seeks to encourage people to travel within Japan, with the national government paying part of the cost. We can anticipate increasing numbers of tourists coming to Okinawa on subsidized vacations.
Prevention and containment measures
It is therefore vital for all members of the OIST community to remain alert, and to help sustain the infection prevention and containment measures we have in place:
- Wear a mask.
- Practice social distancing of 2 meters wherever possible.
- Avoid the 3Cs – closed, poorly ventilated spaces; crowds; and close contact.
- Wash your hands properly, using soap or disinfectant gel.
- Disinfect high touch surfaces frequently.
- Use the COCOA contact tracing app available on iTunes and Google Play.
- When necessary, undertake OIST PCR Testing.
- Wearing a well-fitting face mask is one of the most efficient ways to prevent spread of the virus, and this is now supported by a number of scientific studies.
- We encourage you to wear a mask indoors and OIST requires you to wear a mask in a crowded room or when talking with another person within 2 meters.
- You are not expected to wear a mask outdoors because of the risk from heat stroke. However, you are required to wear a mask when talking with another person within 2 meters.
- You do not need to wear a mask while eating and drinking, or in your home.
Free OIST PCR Testing Eligibility
- OIST faculty, staff, students, and agency temp staff are all eligible for free OIST PCR Testing. We will also provide free PCR Testing to external researchers (as defined by the Dean of Faculty Affairs) – visiting researchers, visiting fellows, collaborating researchers, research consultants, and guest researchers.
- You have to undertake OIST PCR Testing following business travel (travel paid by OIST for work purposes.)
- New recruits joining OIST from a region of Japan affected by COVID-19 must also undertake OIST PCR Testing.
- Personal travelers are strongly advised to undertake OIST PCR Testing when you return from a stay in a COVID-19 affected region outside of Okinawa prefecture, or when a member of your household returns from a stay in a COVID-19 affected region outside of Okinawa prefecture.
- We also recommend OIST PCR Testing if you live in, or have visited, a US base in Okinawa and you are concerned about your health.
- PCR testing is free for OIST employees.
- If a family member who is not an OIST employee requests to be tested due to specific health concerns, OIST can now also offer PCR testing at a cost of 5,000 yen.
- Search for "PCR Testing" in the TIDA "Find Links" box to apply and find more information.
Please see www.oist.jp/covid-19 for latest updates and guidance, and a range of resources which will support your work, your health and well-being.
Thank you, as always, for your cooperation and concern for one another and we will continue to keep you posted. Individual queries can be raised with email@example.com and we will assist in getting the answers you need.
COVID-19: The New Normal at OIST
Work resumed fully on campus from Monday, June 1, 2020. Thank you for your efforts and for doing so much to support one another. OIST has been able to sustain momentum throughout an extremely challenging period and this has been an organization-wide achievement.
Government restrictions are now being relaxed gradually. Our principal objective in response is to preserve the health and well-being of OISTers and to protect – to the fullest possible extent – the OIST campus from COVID-19 infection. This will require much stronger reliance on testing, and the adoption by all OISTers of the COCOA contact tracing app, to support institutional effort to track, trace, and protect others from possible infection.
We want to give reassurance to our own employees and to the wider community that OIST business travelers or other OIST travelers are not taking lightly the risk of ‘importing’ COVID-19 to Okinawa. OIST needs to demonstrate that its business travelers are infection free, and that the Institution is meeting high standards of infection control and, where needed, acting fast to contain any incident.
- Travel and PCR Testing
- PCR Testing (provided by OIST at no cost to the individual) becomes MANDATORY following Business Travel until at least the end of September 2020.
- Free for OIST faculty, staff and students following leisure travel, and strongly encouraged after personal stays in areas of Japan with confirmed/rising COVID-19 cases.
Most non-Japanese nationals are still refused re-entry to Japan if they have traveled overseas, and international travel remains heavily restricted. OIST does not allow international business travel for the time being.
The Japanese national government relaxed travel restrictions within Japan on Friday, June 19, 2020. Travel within Japan is now unrestricted. Trips across prefectural boundaries within Japan are no longer discouraged.
A PCR testing facility started operations at OIST on Monday, June 1. We have decided to extend the period during which OIST will provide free PCR Testing for faculty, staff and students, through to the end of September 2020.
Anyone who travels outside of Okinawa on OIST business will be required to undertake PCR testing before they return to work on campus. Colleagues should follow the steps outlined in the current OIST guidelines on PCR testing, and the relevant webpage and form (English and Japanese). These can be found by typing "PCR Testing" into the Find Links box at the top of https://tida.oist.jp (OIST login required).
On Day 1, when you collect and submit your PCR testing kit, you will have to stay away from campus. You will still be paid on that day. Remote working, if feasible, will also be allowed.
Normal travel processes for the booking and approval of domestic business trips should be followed.
You can also now travel within Japan for personal or leisure reasons if you wish. You do not need to communicate with your manager about your personal domestic travel. Please be aware that some remote islands in the Okinawa Prefecture with vulnerable medical systems continue to practice caution regarding visitors, so please take thorough health precautions and check the webpage of the municipality of your destination to inform your decision to travel or not.
If you have traveled for leisure reasons and have stayed in an area of Japan which has reported a local increase in confirmed cases of COVID-19, or where the public authorities have announced a rise in community transmission of SARS-CoV-2, we strongly encourage you to undergo PCR testing at OIST when you return. There will be no fee for this.
In addition, if any member of your shared household returns from travel, OIST colleagues can take the PCR Test on day 4, 6 and 10 after their household member returns, coming on campus from day 1. If any household member develops symptoms related to COVID-19, the OIST member of staff should contact the Health Center.
Important: Do not come to work if you have any symptoms associated with COVID-19. Stay at home, using sick leave. Contact the OIST Health Center by telephone or email. They will advise you what to do next.
- Contact Tracing App
All members of OIST should install and setup the COVID-19 Contact App (COCOA) from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare on their smartphones or mobile device. This application allows you to track your contact with others both on and off campus and will alert you if you have had contact with potentially infected individuals, aiding in preventing the spread of the Corona Virus.
- Is completely anonymous, as it does not identify you or the individuals you have contact with
- Does not track your location
- Deletes all data after 14 days
You can download the application from the App Store on Apple devices, or from the Google Play store on Android. OIST IT will push the application to all OIST managed iPhones, please setup the application. Please ensure your mobile device is running the latest iOS or Android operating system.
Please see the COVID-19 Contact App Guide for assistance in downloading and setting up the application, along with an FAQ answering the most common questions regarding the application.
- Emergency Personal Travel Outside of Japan
Only holders of Japanese passports are permitted entry/re-entry to Japan for the time being. Most nationalities are currently refused entry to Japan.
We therefore recommend that colleagues do not undertake private international travel in the weeks ahead, unless they have a personal emergency. Discuss emergency travel with your manager, who will support and advise you.
When border and visa controls are relaxed, we will let you know.
- Social Distancing
General Measures for Infection Prevention: June 1, 2020 onwards
- On-campus working.
- Only exceptions (with Manager and OIST Health Center agreement) are employees over 65 years old or with a pre-existing medical condition.
- Maintain 2 meters minimum social distance wherever possible. Managers will assess proximity within work spaces and alternative space will be sourced where required.
- Avoid the 3 Cs (Closed Spaces, Crowded Places, Close-Contact settings).
- Health and Hygiene
- Open windows and doors wherever you can.
- Wash hands and disinfect ‘high touch’ surfaces such as textbooks, educational tools and equipment.
- Check your body temperature and watch for any cold-like symptoms such as a cough. Encourage people in your household to do the same.
- Sanitize high-touch surfaces on a regular basis. The OIST Health Center can provide materials for disinfection and the housekeeping team at OIST is sustaining extra cleaning of high touch surfaces like push buttons, handles, handrails.
- Please wear a mask in shared spaces open to the wider community (cafes, corridors, shared areas). Please be sensitive to social conventions and mask wearing in Japan.
(Guideline issued by the Okinawa Prefectural Government)
- Wearing a mask in hot and humid summer weather may increase the risk of heat stroke. If you can secure 2 meters minimum social distance when outdoors, a mask is recommended to be removed to prevent the risk of heat stroke.
(Guideline issued by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare)
- Meetings can be held on the condition that social distancing can be maintained and the 3Cs (closed space, crowded space, close contact) are avoided.
- For indoor events, the room occupancy rate must be no more than 50% of the maximum capacity of the venue.
- Those who have suspected symptoms must not allowed to participate. (OPG guidance)
- Vendors and Visitors
- No general visitors are permitted on campus until advised otherwise. We are not receiving group visits or providing group campus tours until March 31, 2021.
- Invited domestic guests visiting campus for essential business should have a temperature check, and complete a health and travel questionnaire, at the Main Reception or Bosai Center.
Travel restrictions within Japan were relaxed on Friday June 18, 2020, by the national Government.
Most non-Japanese nationals are still refused re-entry to Japan if they have traveled from overseas, and international travel remains heavily restricted. OIST is not allowing international business travel for the time being.
Travel Within Japan is Now Unrestricted
Journeys across prefectural boundaries within Japan are no longer discouraged by the Government.
OIST permits domestic business travel. Normal travel processes for domestic business trips should be followed.
You can travel within Japan for personal or leisure reasons if you wish. You do not need to advise your manager about your personal domestic travel.
Our policy on visitors to the OIST campus remains unchanged. For now, the OIST campus (labs and work buildings, café etc) is not open to general visitors. Business visitors from Okinawa Prefecture and from within Japan are permitted. All visitors undergo a temperature check and health declaration at the Welcome Desk/Bosai Center. Meeting room occupancy should not exceed 50% of meeting space available. Comprehensive infection prevention advice is available at www.oist.jp/covid-19 in both English and Japanese.
All travelers are requested to remain vigilant, and to act on advice to help prevent COVID-19 infection – avoid close contact, wear a mask, practice disinfection control, and wash your hands thoroughly and often with alcohol based gel or soap and water.
If you develop any symptoms associated with SARS-CoV-2 you must email or telephone the OIST Health Center and you should stay away from the office, taking sick leave. You will be offered PCR testing which can speed up your return to work if the testing is negative.
OIST colleagues who travel within Japan, either on business or for personal reasons, currently have the option to undertake free PCR Testing upon return to campus. This pilot program is running initially until the end of June. We will send an update on testing protocols and any changes to the testing program towards the end of this month.
Our current guidelines on PCR testing, and the relevant webpage and form (English and Japanese) can be found by typing "PCR Testing" into the Find Links box at the top of https://tida.oist.jp (OIST login required).
Contact Tracing App
We also strongly recommend that you download the Contact Tracing App developed for Japan. Tim Dyce wrote to colleagues about this on Friday. Here is a reminder:
The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare has today released a smartphone application (named “COVID-19 Contact App” (COCOA)) to aid in preventing the spread of the Corona Virus. Upon your consent, the application will record the individuals you come in contact with and inform you of possible contact with individuals infected with the Corona Virus.
- Is completely anonymous, as it does not identify you or the individuals you have contact with
- Does not track your location
- Deletes all data after 14 days
All members of OIST should download and setup this application on their smartphones or mobile device. This application will not only allow you to track your contact with others on campus, but more importantly track your contact outside the campus, helping protect yourself and the OIST community. This will be especially important as tourist numbers travelling to Okinawa from mainland Japan increase.
You can download the application from the App Store on Apple devices, or from the Google Play store on Android. Please ensure your mobile device is running the latest iOS or Android operating system.
- Apple - App Store Link
- Android - Google Play Link (pending release)
Guides on downloading and setting up the application are available, along with an FAQ answering the most common questions regarding the application.
Guides (OIST login required):
As part of the new normal at OIST we have to rely on the consideration of colleagues to do all they can to prevent infection, respect and help minimize the concerns of others, assist with containment, and help track any potential spread. The steps described here all contribute to this, so your cooperation and care for others is greatly appreciated.
It has been a pleasure to see many more of you back on campus in recent days. Thank you for adapting to the constraints and challenges of recent months, and for supporting each other so effectively. I think our OIST community has coped extremely well in demanding times.
Ongoing concern and alertness to the threat of COVID-19 can hopefully be alleviated in future – but this may take a year and a half or longer. Only a proven effective vaccine will allow humanity to lower its guard.
Thankfully, Okinawa has a much more fortunate situation than many other parts of the world. The Prefecture has not confirmed any new case of infection since April 30. Very sadly, there have been six deaths, but the overall fatality and infection rate of 143 (as of May 21) is remarkable when assessed against COVID-19’s impact on societies elsewhere.
We have reached the point where OIST can adjust its operational response to COVID-19. Hence, the time has come to establish a ‘new normal’ on campus. We will be resuming full campus operations on Monday June 1, and stepping back from the 'emergency' measures of the past months. A summary of what we will do from Monday is attached in updated guidelines. These reflect the current expectations of the Okinawa Prefectural Government and also incorporate latest advice from the national government. The team in CPR will communicate key points in greater detail, and our advice online will be revised.
From Monday June 1, 2020 everybody (with only manager-agreed exceptions for age or medical reasons) is expected to return to work on campus. We introduced ‘home office’ working as an exceptional measure to keep people safe and healthy during a period of very heightened risk of infection and a real threat of rapid spread. Now that this danger has passed, we can resume our working lives on site. OIST does not have a remote working policy. As part of the way we adapt to a ‘new normal’ I have asked senior colleagues to establish a group to consider a future policy for remote working, evaluating lessons learned from the temporary arrangements we adopted recently. Any new policy will have to be formulated with care, and must be fair and consistent, taking full account of operational necessities.
In the meantime, I would like to thank you all for your efforts and many contributions. I think we can be especially proud of the teams in numerous laboratories and scientific support sections who are making such a vital contribution to understanding and tackling COVID-19. I am especially grateful to the colleagues who have developed PCR testing capability at OIST. This will make a significant contribution to our ability to operate effectively in the period ahead. Furthermore, OIST’s support for medical organizations and our neighboring communities is making a tremendous difference, it is recognized at regional and national level, and is deeply appreciated. Our institution is a force for good in Okinawa and we have so much more to achieve. Let’s work together in the days and months to come and continue to show that OIST is something special: a unique, dynamic and vital asset to Okinawa, Japan and the world.
Peter Gruss, President and CEO
During the recent institution-wide ‘work at home’ period (except for critical business and essential research) there was a business need to take laptops, desktops, screens, and other equipment off campus.
With our campus now returning to full operations, all assets which would not otherwise routinely be taken off campus should be returned. The accounting section, IT and BFM are asking all research units, divisions and sections to take stock and ensure that all assets are accounted for. Please complete this audit of IT-related assets by May 29th, reporting the status to the Fixed Assets Team firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, any missing, or suspected missing assets should be promptly reported via the lost fixed assets form: Loss, Damage, and Theft Report of Article.
Beyond the physical assets taken off campus, please also ensure that all files, data or other information has been returned, or destroyed. Please consult the information security top 10 list for more information on information security. Please pay particular attention to point 9; secure your area before leaving it unattended.
Taking stock of assets now will greatly reduce the work at the end of the fiscal year, so we thank you in advance for your cooperation.
Okinawa has recorded no new cases of COVID-19 infection for eleven consecutive days – despite increased testing and heightened vigilance. Governor Tamaki has now declared that emergency measures imposed on organizations in Okinawa, including universities, can be lifted early.
With the exception of schools and kindergartens – which must not operate before May 21, 2020 – return to normal business is permitted from May 14,2020.
However, there are conditions. Organizations will be expected to implement a range of measures outlined in the attached document.
The Emergency Response Committee at OIST met today to consider this development and decided that:
- OIST will resume most on-campus operations from Monday May 18, 2020. However, current international and domestic travel restrictions are unchanged. Visitor restrictions are unchanged. The postponement of large events and conferences until at least August 31, 2020 is unchanged. Infection prevention and social distancing requirements remain in force.
- Our Child Development Center and After School Program will resume operations on Thursday May 21, 2020. Because of the longer restriction on kindergarten and school opening, colleagues with children may be unable to return to work at the OIST campus before Thursday May 21, 2020. Please tell your manager if this is the case. Remote working will be permitted.
Any colleague considered to be in a high-risk group (due to their age, pregnancy, medical conditions) is strongly advised to continue working on a ‘home office’ basis. You can, however, return to work on campus if you wish.
A discretionary continuation of ‘home office’ working arrangements within sections and labs will also support effective social distancing. Managers and Unit Leaders can approve ongoing ‘home office’ working for the time being. Managers will also be helped to identify alternative work spaces where colleagues are currently in close proximity.
As the President stated in his recent note to all of us, life for the foreseeable future will be very different. We cannot return swiftly to many of the activities and ways of working we enjoyed previously. In taking these steps towards a new kind of normal, we thank you for your understanding, patience, and your support for OIST and for one another.
OIST is making strong progress in partnership with Okinawa Prefecture to advance COVID-19 testing. I know you will join me in expressing thanks to all who worked tirelessly in our laboratories and workshops throughout the holiday period to drive forward critical projects.
Until an effective vaccine is available, testing will play a key role for organizations looking to do things as closely as possible to the way they were done before this pandemic. Working lives, however, will not be the same. This will be true for all of us at OIST. Hence, rigorous infection prevention steps, everyday social distancing, and greater precaution around travel and large group activities will be the ‘new normal’.
Today I chaired a meeting of our Emergency Response Committee. In line with the latest announcement by Okinawa Prefecture, we will extend our current restrictions until the end of Wednesday May 20, 2020. Until then, home working should be undertaken by the majority of OIST colleagues. Only those whose research is essential, or whose business is critical, will be permitted to work on campus.
After Thursday May 21, 2020 we intend to re-introduce work on the OIST campus for more of our people. However, this needs to be done safely and thoughtfully, with careful regard for the infection prevention measures which have will have to be part of everyday life. We will therefore ask divisions and units to prepare plans for a phased resumption of activity on campus. This may permit staff – with manager’s approval – to continue to work from home for a longer period.
Our existing travel restrictions remain in place. Domestic business travel by OIST staff is not permitted for the time being. Entry to Japan from overseas is currently prohibited for most non-Japanese nationals. All private travel between prefectures is strongly discouraged, unless for a personal or family emergency. Events and conferences on campus have been postponed until at least August 31, 2020, and general visitors are not permitted. Essential visitors, including vendors, will still require the agreement of the Provost or Chief Operating Officer.
I am confident that OIST will be among the institutions which adapt and flourish through the period ahead. We are a young organization, but the talent of our people has helped achieve much in our short history. Thank you for your individual contribution to our continuing momentum and success.
A reminder to all of you working from home at the moment: please continue to work from home the rest of this week. Special measures at the OIST campus remain in place until at least the end of Friday May 8, 2020. You should only come to the OIST campus tomorrow or Friday if it has been agreed that your research work is essential or your business is critical.
The COVID-19 Emergency Response team meets tomorrow to consider measures beyond Friday. This will take account of latest announcements by the Prime Minister of Japan and the Governor of Okinawa. Peter will write to you tomorrow to let you know the outcome.
In the meantime, stay well. Your presence on campus is missed! My colleagues and I all hope that your work or study is going as smoothly as it can. Please remember that we can help address any questions or difficulties you may be having if you email email@example.com. There is also plenty of guidance and support online at www.oist.jp/covid-19 This covers physical and mental well-being, policies and updates, technical resources to help you work from home securely and effectively, and a full archive of past bulletins.
I hope you are all well and thank you for adapting to the arrangements now in place.
The COVID-19 Emergency Response Group, chaired by the President, met at 12 today to assess the situation.
Our current campus and working restrictions are in place until the end of May 6, 2020. Essential research projects and critical business are being carried out on campus. All other OIST business is by ‘home office’ working.
Further decisions on emergency restrictions will be taken by the national and prefectural government in Tokyo and Naha in the days ahead.
OIST will therefore extend measures which are now in place to include Thursday 7 May, 2020 and Friday 8 May, 2020. Please do not return to campus next Thursday and Friday if you are currently required to work from home.
We will write to all colleagues next Friday 8 May, 2020 with a further update. This will take full account of the situation in the wider community, and reflect government advice.
It appears that tougher containment measures are having an impact on the spread of the virus in Okinawa, as hoped. However it remains essential that these extraordinary actions are at least sustained throughout Golden Week, and into next weekend. Please take care, avoid anything but essential trips to busier environments, practice social distancing and effective infection prevention measures. Further details are at www.oist.jp/covid-19
This ‘Golden Week’ of consecutive national holidays will be very different from usual. Flights home, or vacation plans, have been cancelled, and many tourist destinations across Okinawa and the wider region have closed. I am keenly aware that, for many of us, precious time with family, either here in Japan or overseas, has been taken away.
I would like to thank the whole OIST community for its sustained effort to maintain social distancing and for its determination to stem the spread of COVID-19. There are new cases in Okinawa each day. You may also be aware from local media reports that – despite every effort to dissuade people from doing so – thousands may still be flying into Okinawa for Golden Week.
With this in mind, I would like to remind you of the importance of sticking to the measures in place. Please stay at home as much as you can, avoid groups, undertake the recommended infection measures, wear a mask. Only do what is essential.
I want to thank everyone in our OIST community for stepping up to this challenge and for addressing it in both your personal and professional lives with resilience, expertise and compassion.
Many of our researchers have paused their usual projects and shifted focus toward providing much-needed supplies and equipment to the local community and toward the basic research that will contribute to the global fight against COVID-19. Thank you.
Most of us have switched to ‘home office’ working and are taking steps in line with the recommendation from the Okinawa Prefectural Government. This has been very challenging, both professionally and personally. Your ongoing contribution to OIST and your care for the wellbeing of our community is hugely appreciated.
It has been easier to see the contributions of our more public-reaching COVID-19 efforts. However, there have been many OISTers working hard behind the scenes to support the rapid changes in our work and daily lives. We are grateful, and to shine a light on these efforts we have created a series of online profiles to share with the community. Please nominate others by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org so we can continue to tell these stories and thank those who are applying their time and talent to help others.
In the period ahead, please continue to check email and review our regularly updated www.oist.jp/covid-19/guidance for the latest updates about operations on and off campus.
I wish you all a safe and healthy Golden Week. As they say in Okinawa:
やーぐまい (Yahgumai!)……(Stay Home!)
Accounting Schedule, in response to restricted operations on campus.
We, the Accounting Section, have been encountering significant difficulties due to restricted operations on campus while we finalize our financial statements. These need to be submitted to the Cabinet Office by the end of June.
To cope with this challenging task, our accounting schedule will be as follows:
- The submission deadline of documents for the April closing is May 11th.
- Payment days in May will be limited to three days: 15th, 25th, and 29th.
- Replies to any inquiry concerning FY2020 accounts can only be provided after May 18th . We will also respond to regular inquiries (except for emergencies) after May 18th.
Thank you for your understanding
Sent on behalf of Tomo Nagase, Vice President for Human Resources
Due to the current COVID-19 situation, the OIST Salary Review Committee meeting will be postponed from April to May 2020. The OIST Salary Review Committee reviews and approves the previous fiscal year’s evaluations, salary changes and promotions. All eligible employees’ evaluations, salary changes and promotion results will be communicated on or before June 16th 2020, and any new salaries or promotions will of course be backdated to April 1st, 2020 (unchanged) so colleagues will not lose out. We appreciate your understanding.
FURTHER ANNOUNCEMENT: OKINAWA PREFECTURE
The Governor of Okinawa Prefecture made a further announcement last night, seeking restrictions on restaurants, bars and nightclubs, as well as non-food retail outlets in Okinawa. He also requested suspension of activities in leisure and recreation facilities. Educational institutions were advised to suspend face-to-face teaching.
Arrangements already in place at OIST until the end of May 6 – with ‘home office’ working for most colleagues, and only essential research and business activity sustained on campus – meet the government requirements.
OIST VOLUNTEERS SUPPORTING COLLEAGUES
OIST volunteers are being coordinated in the event that colleagues need support due to illness or quarantine. You can find the details here: https://groups.oist.jp/recreation/volunteer-service
PRESIDENT GRUSS COLUMN IN TODAY’S RYUKYU SHIMPO NEWSPAPER
Please remember to check TIDA and www.oist.jp/covid-19 for regular updates while working from home. Many thanks to colleagues undertaking essential research and critical tasks on campus. Take care of yourself and those close to you.
New Coronavirus Infectious Disease Okinawa Prefecture State of Emergency Declaration
In Okinawa Prefecture, the number of infected people has doubled and doubled as the days passed from the beginning of April, and has exceeded 100. Furthermore, the number of cases where the route of infection is unknown has increased, and experts are concerned that the community-acquired infections will spread. In addition, the number of deaths has occurred and the number of serious cases has increased, and the medical phase is changing, and it is necessary to cooperate with designated medical institutions and cooperating medical institutions. Right now is the brink of stopping the spread of infection.
Despite this situation, I would like to pay my homage to all the medical staff who are working hard at the forefront of infectious disease control, and I would also like to thank all the families who support it.
We would also like to express our deep gratitude to all the social welfare facilities such as day care centers that work to support the lives of the citizens of the prefecture, the businesses involved in the supply of food and other items necessary for daily life, and the living infrastructure.
On April 16, the government expanded the area of the emergency declaration to all prefectures and designated 13 prefectures as "specific caution prefectures" as a region to focus on measures to prevent the spread of infection.
The current infection situation in Okinawa, which is a remote island prefecture, is as severe as in the 6 prefectures added this time, and we request the government to add Okinawa to the “specific caution prefectures”, and the following measures are taken:
・ Priority securing of lacking medical equipment such as N95 mask
・ Support for the prefecture's medical care provision system, including wide-area support
・ Promotion of further infection prevention measures in Okinawa Prefecture
We will issue the "Okinawa Prefecture Emergency Situation Declaration" to inform the citizens of this critical situation to the prefectures and to make every effort to prevent the spread of infection.
1. About the medical care provision system
・ We will secure a system to provide medical care to critically ill patients in case the number of patients further increases.
・ We will adjust the medical institutions and accommodations to be hospitalized according to the severity of the patient.
・ Expand the PCR inspection system.
・ We will strive to secure medical equipment.
・ We will improve the medical service provision system on remote islands.
・ We will work on measures to prevent the stricken medical field from being destroyed.
・ Be sure to support the people who work in the medical field.
2. For business operators
・ We will support the financing of businesses by increasing the loan limit of "SME Safety Net Fund" and relaxing requirements.
・ In addition to the employment adjustment subsidy by Okinawa Prefecture, we will set up a consultation desk and enhance the system by visiting consultation desks in each region.
・ From the perspective of preventing the spread of infectious diseases, we will consider the provision of emergency support money to restaurants and other places.
・ We will consider the payment of benefits that can be utilized for the entire business from the continuation of business and maintenance of employment of small and medium-sized businesses in the prefecture, etc., and we will make continuous and steady efforts to protect employment, business and life.
・ If you continue to operate, please take measures to reduce contact between people, such as limiting the number of working days, implementing telework, shortening meeting time, and controlling entrance to prevent congestion at supermarkets and stores
3. To the citizens of the prefecture
・ Be sure to implement personal infection control measures such as hand washing and wearing a mask.
・ Please refrain from going out unless it is necessary to maintain your life. In particular, avoid downtown areas, meetings, and dinners where people cannot be sufficiently distanced.
・ Please do not cross the prefecture.
・ To prevent the spread of infection on remote islands, do not move between the main island and remote islands or between remote islands unless there is an urgent need.
4. To reduce contact between people by 80% ...
It's very important to be close and to act during Golden Week.
It is said that each prefectural citizen can reduce the spread of infection by reducing the chances of contact by 80%, that is, reducing the activity to one-fifth.
Let's change the future together! 1/5 Okinawa action
With the key word, let's work together as a citizen of the prefecture to overcome this difficult situation.
・ Promote remote work and distributed attendance.
・ Reduce the number of participants and the number of meetings held as much as possible.
・ Reduce the number of people and the number of times when you need to go out, such as shopping for daily necessities.
Please reduce the number of people and the number of times to 1/5.
If the citizens of the prefecture can work together and support each other, the epidemic of the new coronavirus infection can be suppressed. It is extremely important not to infect/be infected the new corona and not to destroy medical care.
Thank you for your understanding and cooperation in order to protect you and your loved ones.
April 20, 2nd year of Reiwa
Tamaki Denny, Governor of Okinawa Prefecture
[English based on a Google translation with minor edits]
From tomorrow, until the end of May 6, 2020, unless your line manager has specifically instructed you to come to campus to carry on essential business, OIST is requiring you to work from home.
Thank you very much for your support as we prepare to undertake only the most essential research activity and critical business on campus. Colleagues across all divisions are here to help you in this transition.
UPDATE FROM THE VICE PRESIDENT FOR HUMAN RESOURCES
Please refer to Working Conditions and Attendance Management Under COVID-19 if you have any questions about how to record your work from home, or your leave, during this time.
UPDATE FROM THE VICE PRESIDENT FOR BUILDINGS AND FACILITIES MANAGEMENT
From April 21 to May 6, the OIST Shuttle Service will reduce operations. Please see the temporary timetable to find out what stops are still available and how often. Only if your journey is essential. Unless it is really necessary to travel for work, or to shop for essentials, please stay at home.
UPDATE FROM THE VICE PRESIDENT OF UNIVERSITY COMMUNITY SERVICES
With effect from April 21, 2020, we will continue to support essential research, critical business on campus, and residents. We will provide food services as follows:
1. Bento vendors
The number of available sellers and bentos will be scaled down. Please check the recent timetable here.
The new operator, AIEN Coffee & Bakery will start selling breads, sandwiches, coffee and soft drinks from April 22.
They serve take-out menu only for the time being. You may not use the eating space on B and C floor.
They will open Monday to Saturday between 8am to 5pm.
The renovation work will start after Golden Week. We will provide you with more details as these are determined.
Jimmy’s will operate as usual during this period.
UPDATE FROM THE VICE PRESIDENT FOR INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND CHIEF INFORMATION OFFICER
IT has prepared Recommendations and Feedback on Remote Work. Colleagues are encouraged to contribute feedback and tips on how they are coping with the transition to remote working and using the tools OIST IT provides. Email your experience and tips to email@example.com. IT will upload them. Let’s learn from each other during this challenging time!
Zoom has responded to recently publicized security issues, engaging expertise and making updates and changes to rectify issues. Zoom remains safe and secure for use by OIST members, provided you keep your Zoom client up to date and set a meeting password to prevent “Zoombombing”. More information on Zoom’s new security features are available under the Zoom Guide.
We have also updated the Working Off-Campus (Remote Work) website. This makes clear which devices can be used to connect to OIST services and the resources available to support you.
We will keep the www.oist.jp/covid-19/guidance website up to date. Please refer to it wherever questions arise. The OIST firstname.lastname@example.org email address also remains available for any questions or concerns you have.
Please take time to read two emails sent earlier today: first, the message from Dr. Peter Gruss announcing latest steps at OIST in response to COVID-19; and then the note sent on behalf of Dr. Mary Collins, addressing research operations from Tuesday April 21, 2020 onwards.
Many colleagues in administrative roles at OIST have already started ‘home office’ working. After Tuesday, nearly every member of OIST administrative staff will be required to work on a ‘home office’ basis. Please see www.oist.jp/covid-19 for information on ‘home office’ arrangements and policies. Each division and service submitted an approved ‘business continuity plan’ to the Chief Operating Officer. Your managers will now be implementing these plans in full.
Please be reassured that payroll processing for May will continue normally, and salaries were paid today. Please do not access campus buildings to use the Center Building C Floor ATM after Monday. When you undertake your essential shopping trips, please withdraw cash at the same time, or choose to pay by card wherever you can.
We have already written to parents and carers of children who attend the OIST Child Development Center and After School Program to announce suspension of normal operations from the end of today until the end of May 6. Please make sure to take home your child's belongings this afternoon. Child care staff will come in on Monday to thoroughly clean and prepare for their continuing work from home.
We are in active discussion with food and retail providers and will update colleagues on revised arrangements as soon as possible (for those who live in the Village, or who will be undertaking critical on-campus work in the coming weeks).
Many meeting spaces around campus are no longer accessible, and there will be no access to the Auditorium and Conference Center. The playgrounds and gardens throughout the Village are open for use. I appreciate that children don’t observe social distancing protocols, but do ask parents to think carefully about how best to manage play, and minimize physical interaction.
A basic OIST shuttle service will be sustained, and further details of the timetable will be confirmed on Monday at www.oist.jp/covid-19. There may be adjustments in the service to Seragaki and it is also likely that Seaside House will no longer require a bus service while new measures are in place. Because the After School Program is being paused, Seaside House will have a security presence only, until further notice.
Language classes are currently on a break between terms. Registration will open as normal for classes which are due to recommence on May 11, 2020. These may be delivered online, subject to the situation at the time.
The OIST Resource Center will continue to operate remotely – with phone, email and support requests operating as usual. Ganjuu Wellbeing Services will be sustained with staff working on a ‘home office’ basis. Many resources have also been posted at www.oist.jp/covid-19/guidance to support you.
Further information on all services and adjustments to normal operations between now and the end of May 6, 2020 can be found at www.oist.jp/covid-19/guidance.
We all appreciate your patience and your cooperation. We will write to you to provide an update on the broader situation in Okinawa, and meanwhile we urge you to follow the guidance we have issued on infection prevention and social distancing. It really is vital that you play your part.
Stay well, and take care. Sorry I cannot cover every point in every email, but do email the team at email@example.com and we will do our utmost to get you the answers you seek.
The President announced earlier today that from Tuesday April 21st, 2020 we will undertake only the most essential research activity on our campus. All other OIST business will carry on via ‘home office’ working.
For OIST researchers and research support staff (including faculty, students, post-docs, technicians, RUAs and research support sections) this means:
- Research Units and Research Support Sections should follow the business continuity plans agreed with the Office of the Provost.
- The following activities will continue on campus with the Provost’s approval:
- COVID-19 related research projects
- Long term experiments
- Animal and plant care
If your work falls outside of these categories, please make your labs safe on Monday 20th April, collect what you need to work remotely, and work from home until you are advised to return to campus. The date set for this, at present, is May 6, 2020.
Thank you for your patience and cooperation.
Wishing you all well.
I would like to thank you all for the excellent work which has been continuing in our laboratories and divisions, including important projects in response to COVID-19. These make us all proud. I also appreciate the successful transition many of you have made to ‘home office’ work and study. Thanks, too, go to the staff of our Child Development Center and After School Program, for sustaining these essential services in ever more challenging conditions.
The COVID-19 Management team met just now.
I want to announce as early possible to all of you that from Tuesday April 21st, 2020 OIST will further escalate its response to coronavirus. This follows national declarations overnight by the Government of Japan, and a review of current infection levels in Okinawa. From Tuesday until May 6, 2020 (with the period beyond this subject to review) we will undertake only the most essential research activity and critical business on our campus. All other OIST business will carry on via ‘home office’ working. Business continuity plans agreed with each divisions will be fully implemented.
The Provost and VP CPR will write to you across the day to give full and clear guidance on how this development affects you personally, and how it will impact OIST Research, Education and Campus Services.
I can confirm now that our CDC and After School Programs will be suspended from the end of today. I can also confirm that colleagues will have the opportunity to come onto campus on Monday April 20, 2020 to make any further arrangements necessary in support of ‘home office’ working.
With other members of the COVID-19 management team I will continue to be campus-based to lead our essential business. Those of you who need, with management agreement, to be on campus will be briefed appropriately and given necessary support.
Please take care of yourselves and the wider community, and continue to observe all our guidance on infection prevention and social distancing. I am extremely grateful for your resilience and support in these extraordinary times.
From this Monday 13th April OIST will permit work from home by all eligible staff, including students and eligible temporary staff, with the approval of their manager. These measures are a temporary response to the COVID-19 pandemic and seek to reduce on-campus population density and prevent any possible spread of coronavirus infection.
For all managers and staff our internal guidance on work from home has been combined and updated HERE. It covers HR, IT and Information Security requirements. We will continue to update guidance on this web page as the situation develops.
Public and more general guidance continues to be provided at: https://www.oist.jp/covid-19
Not all staff can currently be provided with an OIST-issued laptop and/or VPN access. These resources need to be prioritized for those who need them most. IT is doing all it can to support OIST during this difficult time. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss any questions you may have after reading the guidance provided.
Please take care of yourself and your families and have a relaxing weekend. Thank you for everything you are doing to sustain the important work and mission here at OIST, and for your care in following our guidance and providing such helpful feedback and support.
Japan Prime Minister Abe Shinzo last night announced that seven prefectures will adopt emergency measures for four weeks to contain the spread of coronavirus.
Elementary, junior high, and high schools have been asked to close. Kindergartens and childcare facilities can remain open, subject to strict disinfection requirements.
The Prime Minister wants people to stop using restaurants, cafés and to avoid crowded areas wherever possible. People have been told not to travel within Japan, especially between prefectures with high rates of infection. Many mainland universities have moved to remote working, and the University of Tokyo campus is now inaccessible to the public.
Okinawa Prefecture was not included in the emergency measures announced yesterday, but the number of confirmed cases of infection in Okinawa has increased to 39. Elementary, junior high and high schools in Okinawa have been closed until April 21.
- OIST expects to sustain its mission and output, through these challenges. The breadth of our scientific research will be carrying on during this period and we have numerous COVID-19 related research projects which are also advancing.
- Plans are ready, if we need them, to take care of all critical tasks on campus (like animal welfare, managing long term experiments, site maintenance).
- We will sustain our administrative services through a mix of agreed on-campus and ‘home office’ work.
- Our graduate education also carries on, with direct teaching for small-size groups (fewer than ten), and teaching and supervision can also be delivered online in the period ahead.
MEASURES TO SUPPORT OIST OPERATIONS
- CDC is Operational
The CDC and SAP are both operational and caring for your children. This is consistent with the policy in place in Onna Village, where the Onna Kindergarten is also operating normally (with added precautionary measures for infection control). To reduce any risk of cross-infection between these two important local facilities, we now require parents whose children attend sessions at both centers to use only one.
The CDC leadership is writing to parents with regular updates and this will continue.
Today, we were advised that a family member of a child in Kafuu classroom had reported symptoms of concern. There is no confirmation of COVID-19 infection, but this child has nonetheless been kept at home. Given this development, we are closing our Kafuu classroom for 2 weeks starting from tomorrow (4/9/2020). If your child is in this classroom, we are very sorry, but we will be unable to provide childcare during the next two weeks. Siblings of those in Kafuu class need also to be excluded. Based on current information and a thorough assessment by the leadership, health and safety, and medical advisors, we do not consider it necessary to close other CDC classes, but you may choose to keep your children at home for additional reassurance.
- ‘Home Office’ Working To Be Implemented More Widely for Two Weeks from Monday
From Monday April 13, 2020 we will ask OIST managers to arrange more ‘home office’ working within their sections.
Significantly increased ‘home office’ working will be in place for the next two weeks, and then reviewed. Having more of our staff working on a ‘home office’ basis will strengthen the social distancing measures required.
‘Home Office’ work is manager approved. Italso requires use of an OIST-issued device with an agreed level of IT Security.
Our HR team is finalizing arrangements with Temp Agencies to permit ‘Home Office’ working by Temp Staff whose work is supervised by OIST managers. We will write to your managers with HR and IT guidance on ‘Home Office’ work supervision.
- Home Quarantine and Your Health
OIST home quarantine requirements remain strictly in place, as described on the www.oist.jp/covid-19 web pages. We have asked managers to report to us each week the number of OIST colleagues who are at home because they are unwell with coronavirus-like symptoms, or who are away from work due to travel or other circumstances.
Where colleagues observe precautionary home quarantine you may notice a change in staffing or levels of service. This is unavoidable and we appreciate your understanding. For example, our Goods Acceptance Inspection team will be closed for a while. All goods will be received by our Disaster Prevention Center, and shall be picked up by the requester at the loading dock in Lab1, level B. The Supply Store will be kept operating by our vendor without OIST staff. The internal mail service will be suspended so that all internal mails must be handled by senders themselves.
You cannot attend OIST if you, or a member of your household, has traveled outside Okinawa recently. You must observe fourteen days home quarantine.
Please follow the healthcare guidance at www.oist.jp/covid-19 taking special note of your temperature and respiratory health. All members of OIST are encouraged to do this. You should remain away from work if you have any symptom like cough, cold, sore throat, high temperature or headache.
The guidance we have issued on social distancing and infection prevention remain more important than ever. We now need all of you to avoid cafés, restaurants, bars, and crowded areas, wherever you can. Okinawa’s Governor today made the same appeal. Please do not take unnecessary journeys. Practice rigorous social distancing everywhere possible. Handwashing and use of alcohol-based sanitizer is essential.
- On-Campus Events, Visits and Workshops for External Visitors
Our assessment is that on-campus events and workshops, visits and concerts/exhibitions are unlikely to be permitted until the next academic year. To enable clear planning, provide certainty for our guests and business partners, and to use OIST time and resources carefully, we have confirmed the period of postponement is extended from April 29, 2020 through to August 31, 2020.
The OIST email@example.com email address remains available for any questions or concerns you have.
With best wishes to you and your families, and in appreciation of the supportive and resilient community of scientists and staff we are fortunate to have here at OIST.
Many of our neighbors in Okinawa will be observing Shimi Festival in the days ahead. This celebration of ancestors is determined by the lunar calendar. Many Okinawans – with their relatives – will be visiting tombs to pray for their family’s health and well-being.
In keeping with coronavirus infection prevention advice, the Okinawa Prefecture Government has asked families to consider much smaller gatherings this year. Those who might usually travel to Okinawa from outside of the islands for Shimi Festival have been discouraged from doing so. International travelers are already prohibited.
Should any OIST staff member observe Shimi Festival with close family members or relatives who have traveled from mainland Japan, we would like you to home quarantine for fourteen days before you return to the laboratory or office. Please speak with your line manager about a home working arrangement due to quarantine requirements.
OIST wishes you and your family good health and sends respectful good wishes at this time of Shimi.
Earlier today the COVID-19 management response team at OIST escalated infection prevention measures. We are one step away from ‘critical business only’ on campus, which would mean that most work takes place remotely. At present, however, our operations are continuing and the situation off campus remains unchanged by the Okinawa Prefectural Government.
With effect from the end of Friday 3 April, 2020:
- Business travel by OIST staff to other parts of Japan is prohibited unless special permission is given in writing by a senior executive member of the COVID-19 management group (President, Provost, Chief Operating Officer). If any colleague is required to undertake critical business in mainland Japan (and a virtual meeting cannot be supported) they must observe 14 days home quarantine before returning to OIST. No member of OIST faculty, leadership, staff or community will be exempt from this requirement.
- We also advise that from the end of Friday, no further business meetings - even off campus - should be held with visitors from the Japanese mainland, unless they have previously observed fourteen days of quarantine in Okinawa, and are symptom free.
- If a member of your household, or any visitor to your home, has traveled from the Japanese mainland you are at heightened risk of acquiring COVID-19 infection unless fourteen days quarantine and monitoring for symptoms have passed. You must declare this to your manager if it applies to you, and you will need to seek their agreement that you can work from home.
- We know that serious family emergencies could necessitate travel from Okinawa to other parts of Japan. This will be permitted with manager approval, but home quarantine for fourteen days will still be required upon return. You can work from home where approved, or can use carer, personal or emergency leave to cover your absence.
- As we have said previously, any personal leisure travel is very strongly discouraged. Tourist amenities and accommodation even within the Okinawa Prefecture receive visitors from mainland Japan, bringing a heightened risk of infection. If you ignore this advice, undertake leisure travel, and subsequently require home quarantine, you will not be eligible for any form of paid leave if home working is not approved. If you have no personal leave remaining, you will have to take unpaid leave.
Adopting many of the steps outlined here puts OIST in a different position from the rest of Okinawa. We cannot alter the approach currently in force on the rest of the island and know there are many inconsistencies as soon as colleagues leave our campus. However, within OIST we want to take every step possible to minimize infection risk, taking account of relevant public health data and advice.
Rules banning external visitors to the OIST campus now extend to family members and friends. Do not bring your family members or friends into OIST administrative buildings and laboratories.
Home quarantine is a serious measure which must be undertaken seriously. We have been concerned to receive reports of partial or careless observation of home quarantine by a minority of OIST staff, post-docs, graduate students or interns, and the institution will not hesitate to address this and apply sanctions, which could include removal from OIST provided accommodation, or colleagues being found to be in breach of their contract of employment.
Section managers are now encouraged to devise trials of remote working by all members of staff, not just those who are home working because they are quarantined or in vulnerable groups (older people, those with medical conditions, pregnant).
Managers should also ask staff to complete this form when starting home quarantine. This form can also be downloaded from the Health and Safety web page. We require managers to advise the Health and Safety Office (firstname.lastname@example.org) , on a weekly basis, of the number of staff in their section who are observing home quarantine (1) because they have health symptoms of concern, or (2) because of another infection prevention reason.
Social distancing and rigorous hygiene measures remain vital if OIST is to continue its operations in the period ahead. Colleagues can be reassured that – in the event of further escalation to ‘critical business only’ – we will provide a full business day of advance notification, to allow staff to retrieve essential belongings and appropriate resources. So far 17 Research Units have agreed critical business plans which will permit, for example, care for animals, sustaining long-term experiments, maintaining research assets, or allowing urgent COVID-19 and healthcare related research.
Dr. Gruss chaired a further meeting of the COVID-19 Management Group at OIST this morning in response to reports overnight of a sharply rising number of cases in Japan and the 5 confirmed cases in Okinawa. Here are the key points:
- Most international business travel to and from OIST has already stopped. Some absolutely essential travel (returning members of the institution) could still take place by special agreement, but this is now most unlikely. Should any cases arise there will be double quarantine at the port of entry in Japan for fourteen days, followed by fourteen days here. New hires are now subject to country specific lockdowns and cannot travel. In the unlikely event of an incoming colleague even being permitted to travel in the weeks ahead, they will subject to two-stage quarantine. People offered jobs by OIST have been advised that their start date may be postponed in response to the global pandemic and current travel prohibitions.
- The Governor of Okinawa Prefecture has advised all Okinawan residents not to travel, even within Japan. In the vast majority of cases, domestic business travel by OIST staff should not take place. OIST members who make plans for personal travel elsewhere in Japan (with the exception of family emergencies or urgent personal business) are very strongly advised not to do so. You may be required to home quarantine for fourteen days before being permitted access to the OIST campus when returning to Okinawa. Where home quarantine is required because of your personal leisure travel or any other non-essential travel within Japan, this quarantine period will not be eligible for special paid leave.
- Colleagues may already know that the COVID-19 virus can prompt serious bacterial infection of the lungs and other organs in the most severe cases. Those over 65, or who have pre-existing medical conditions, are most vulnerable. Any colleague at OIST who is over 65 years old, who has a pre-existing medical condition, or is pregnant can remain at home. Please inform your manager if applicable. If you would like to work from home for any other reason, please feel free to speak with your manager who will be supportive of these requests. If you would like assistance with this, please email email@example.com. OIST has also arranged for the Health Center to offer additional screening and protection to those in the high-risk categories, including pneumococcal vaccination for colleagues over 65 where requested and agreed by a clinician.
- Our ongoing preparation in the event of the closure of all non-critical OIST facilities and operations is well advanced. A comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions (In Event of Closure) section is being added to www.oist.jp/covid-19 and on Tuesday 31 March 2020, at 1 p.m. there will be another all-staff meeting via Zoom, where the Provost and OIST Doctor will share updates on this planning, and answer your questions.
- Faculty-led groups are also advancing plans to assist local communities in Okinawa by applying OIST’s scientific expertise and laboratory capability.
- The Child Development Center leadership team continues to write to parents and carers with regular updates and advice, and the Ganjuu Wellbeing Service has recently circulated information to help support us all. This is posted on both the OIST website and TIDA, and Ganjuu staff are available for consultation by email.
The firstname.lastname@example.org email address is always available to address personal questions and concerns. www.oist.jp/covid-19 contains all advice we have provided to date. OIST remains operational: please keep taking the steps we have asked you to adopt – both at work and on any essential trips within the wider community – to ensure social distancing.
Thank you for your continuing care, support and vigilance and we will send the next Town Hall Zoom meeting invitation on Monday. Keep an eye on email and the website over the weekend and we will keep you posted if anything changes.
Thank you to more than 600 of you who joined virtual staff meetings at the end of last week. Today the President chaired the regular meeting of the COVID-19 Management Group. At present, OIST remains operational – with research, education and other business including the CDC carrying on. However, should there be a case of sickness caused by a confirmed COVID-19 infection within OIST, or a rapid rise in cases with COVID-19 symptoms within the OIST community, this situation will change.
Here are key updates from this morning’s meeting:
- There have been three additional cases of COVID-19 infection confirmed in Okinawa, all of them in Naha City. The risk of wide community transmission is clearly greater, though not yet evidenced. If OIST is to continue its scientific research and teaching – and minimize more drastic disruption to our lives and work – we need your help and co-operation. Our advice on infection prevention is more important than ever. Use of disinfectants, effective and regular hand washing, and awareness of general health and body temperature are all essential.
- Do not come to work if you have a cough or cold symptoms. Stay at home. Contact your manager by email or telephone and agree home working. Managers have been asked to support this.
- OIST needs the whole community to be exemplary in taking sensible steps which can preserve our current working environment and protect our health. We want to keep our scientific work and teaching, professional support and community services open. This now requires much stronger advice on social distancing.
- Laboratories and offices, the CDC and support centers, remain open, undertaking their work. However, within the workplace, please take extra care to avoid unnecessary close contact. Try to keep at least a meter apart from colleagues wherever you can.
- Do not hold meetings of more than ten people. Try to avoid smaller meetings in cramped spaces.
- Avoid group lunches and try to avoid food queues. Eat on your own if you can. Throughout April the cafeteria and restaurant will be closed to accommodate new vendors, and there will be expanded bento services.
- We know this is difficult in a campus community, within offices and our CDC – but please avoid all non-essential social contact on campus, in the OIST village, and in the wider community. We advise you to avoid crowded areas, restaurants and bars. Keep your distance from people when shopping, where you can. This is not a pleasant situation to be in, but it is one being shared by societies across the world.
- We strongly advise against all personal travel. If you plan to travel in Golden Week, please review these arrangements. There is a serious risk of quarantine upon return.
We recognize inconsistencies in this advice, especially where work spaces remain open and where OISTers gather and learn together. However, we need to make social distancing a habit now. In the drastic event of a ‘lockdown’, social distancing would become mandatory in all environments.
It is simply not possible to say how long this global pandemic will last. Measures likely to be required in Okinawa are hard to predict. We will do all we can to keep you fully informed in a timely manner.
Policies which remain in place at OIST include our very strict approach to visitors and international travel. Japan now has increased national border enforcement measures for all overseas travelers. Units are permitted to meet the cost of associated quarantine requirements for their people at their port of entry into Japan where relevant. Travelers should, however, be advised to expect further ‘home quarantine’ at OIST for a period of fourteen days.
Travel within Japan by OIST staff is for absolutely essential business, as advised previously. In the vast majority of cases, domestic travel should not take place.
We have listened to helpful feedback from our graduating students. The OIST Graduation Ceremony in May is postponed until next year. More than two thirds of those due to receive their degrees asked us to do this. In 2021 we will combine two graduating classes at a single ceremony, which we hope will be a fully inclusive celebration of achievement.
This week a small group of OIST scientists and leadership will discuss contributions our Institution can make to the healthcare and relevant scientific community in Okinawa. Steps include provision of resources, where possible, and specific expertise. We will publicize and broadcast this session via Zoom and take email questions and suggestions while it takes place.
In addition, the team at our excellent Ganjuu Wellbeing Service in Lab 4 will be offering community-wide support and advice on dealing with individual or family anxiety caused by this situation in the days to come.
Please continue to take care of yourselves and your colleagues. Thank you for your work and for your understanding.
Thank you for questions and comments received since we issued our updated advice on international and national travel, and infection prevention. Please do not hesitate to raise queries from your unit or division (about, for example, scheduled business visitors; what constitutes ‘essential’ international business travel; or whether to advance new business travel plans within Japan). In nearly all cases we are recommending caution and discouraging travel.
Questions submitted so far have related mostly to OIST family members or personal guests visiting or returning from overseas. Anyone who has traveled from outside Japan is now expected to ‘home quarantine’ for fourteen days, to minimize risk that they, or those close to them, might bring COVID-19 to OIST. This means that you and others in your household will have to follow the same precautionary steps as the family member, co-occupant or guest who has been overseas. You will need to agree home working where appropriate with your manager.
You should also contact the OIST Health Center by email or telephone should you, other family members, or your visitors, experience any symptoms of concern while in ‘home quarantine’ over the fourteen day period.
Senior colleagues and the team here in Communication and Public Relations are here to help and advise as needed. I wish you all well, and thank you sincerely for your patience, understanding and cooperation in these really extraordinary circumstances.
There have been no cases of COVID-19 in our community, and Okinawa remains one of the least affected parts of Asia, with only three confirmed infections and effective containment measures. The reduced impact of coronavirus recently prompted the Okinawa government to announce that schools will re-open earlier than planned. However, maintaining this situation requires sustained commitment by everyone living and working here. Infection prevention measures, and making changes to our business and travel, can help ensure that we are doing all we can to minimize risk to ourselves and the rest of the island community.
For this reason OIST is today taking additional steps and issuing new advice following the international spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. The global situation is ever-changing, but you will be aware that an increasing number of countries are introducing ‘lockdowns’ – with travel restrictions and strict quarantine requirements.
In response to the serious disruption and spread of infection outside of Japan:
- International business or private visits to OIST should be strongly discouraged. Visitors who are already in transit will require assessment by the OIST Medical Center upon arrival, and we are introducing a ‘home quarantine’ period of fourteen days for all travelers (staff and visitors) traveling to OIST from outside of Japan with immediate effect.
- International business travel by OIST staff is strongly discouraged until further notice. OIST will cover any unit or divisional costs incurred by cancellation of overseas business travel. If you do opt to travel for absolutely essential overseas business, please note that you will be required to 'home quarantine' upon your return to OIST for a period of fourteen days.
- OIST community members (staff, their partners and families) returning to OIST, or visiting from abroad, will be required to ‘home quarantine’ for fourteen days with immediate effect. We request that you review personal and guest travel plans and plan journeys outside of Japan only if they are absolutely essential.
'Home quarantine’ means living separately from the OIST community to the fullest possible extent and avoiding any unnecessary contact until your health status is clear. Do not come into buildings and offices on campus. You can undertake home working where agreed with your manager. Friends or colleagues can assist with buying food and other essentials or pharmacy supplies – please ask for support. Do not use cafes, restaurants or social spaces on campus or in our neighboring community. Data shows that COVID-19 has an especially serious impact on older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions. People in these categories should exercise particular care and avoid public spaces.
We will separately circulate advice which relates to incoming interns and new graduate students. This will be issued shortly, following consultation with the Graduate School.
In relation to business travel within Japan:
- Please avoid national travel other than absolutely essential business trips. Discussions with Ministries and the Cabinet Office will have to be undertaken in Tokyo and travel for this purpose will continue (under review). If you have traveled outside of Okinawa within other parts of Japan please monitor your health for fourteen days. If you experience a fever of 37.5 degrees or more or have cold symptoms such as coughing please refrain from going to work and seek medical advice.
VP CPR can advise on the necessity of traveling within Japan if you are unsure what constitutes essential travel. You should not travel for scientific talks, seminars, regular meetings or peer engagement events – these should, wherever possible, be fulfilled virtually.
You will note that Grano is to cease selling food on ‘open’ display in accordance with public health guidelines on buffets and uncovered food.
Please remember: frequent and proper hand washing; use of disinfectant gels and wipes; and covering your mouth and nose with a handkerchief, cloth or sleeve when coughing all help to contain the spread of viruses.
This is a fast-moving situation, and we know many people in our community will have questions. We are working to answer those queries as quickly as we can, and we are grateful for your patience at this challenging time. We are monitoring the situation closely and will update you with any changes to our advice. We are proud of our OIST community and grateful for your care and concern for others.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday announced a series of national measures to assist with containment of the COVID-19 coronavirus. These included a request that all elementary, junior high and high schools close, and do not reopen until after the Spring Break. I appreciate that this will have a serious impact on many working families with school age children.
Parents should know that – worldwide – the children who acquire and develop symptoms from COVID-19 have coped extremely well. Clinical data confirms that the impact of this virus can be far more severe on the elderly and those in poor health. Serious cases affecting children have been exceptionally rare. Of course, young people can still spread infection to adults and classmates. Closing schools is consistent with the government’s other steps in relation to travel, large gatherings, cancellation of public events, and prevention of infection. Already many schools in Okinawa have confirmed closure next week.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare has clarified that PM Abe’s request does not apply to day care centers for children, and after-school facilities for elementary school students. Furthermore, the rate of infection in Okinawa remains extremely low. So far, only three cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed on Okinawa, with no new diagnosis in the past fortnight. Given this context, I have decided that the OIST Child Development Center will operate on the basis of business-as-usual until further notice. We will of course keep the situation under very careful ongoing review. The After School and Full Day After School Program (offered during CDC vacation periods) will also operate normally for children aged K-Grade 6.
Below is guidance for OIST managers and staff affected by elementary, junior high and high school closures. I realize that short-notice childcare responsibility will have an immediate impact on your ability to work normally. Special paid leave will, wherever possible, be granted by managers to parents and carers who have no alternative option for the care of children whose schools have closed before the scheduled Spring vacation. OIST does not ordinarily permit home working, but requests will be considered by managers in these exceptional circumstances.
At OIST we have aligned all our actions with the official public health and government advice. We have already cancelled visits to campus, postponed many conferences and workshops, halted travel to China, and advised caution in relation to travel through other areas which are seriously affected. Our prevention measures on campus now require essential business visitors to answer questions at the Welcome Desk which relate to their recent respiratory health and travel, and they are also informed of the measures we require them to take to minimize spread of infection.
Meeting participants at OIST (including internal-only gatherings) are encouraged to thoroughly wash hands before entering large conference room spaces, where disinfectants will be provided by the OIST Health Center. All staff and essential business visitors are asked to undertake thorough hand washing, use of disinfectant gels and wipes, and covering of the mouth and nose with a handkerchief, cloth or sleeve when coughing. Many people opt to wear a mask when in public spaces. This assists by preventing direct touching of the mouth and nose. We recently took steps to replenish supplies of disinfectant and face masks, and placed orders for additional quantities. Thank you for your understanding, and we will of course work hard to support you and keep you closely informed during this challenging period.
GUIDANCE FOR MANAGERS AND STAFF
- Where colleagues have no alternative childcare option, special paid leave can be granted to OIST staff. This will allow them to care for children whose schools have closed. This period begins immediately and will cover all days up to the start of your child’s regularly scheduled school spring vacation.
- Special paid leave is not automatic. It must be approved by the employee’s immediate line manager and recorded in writing.
- Half day special paid leave can also be granted, where this assists with childcare responsibilities.
- Wherever possible, colleagues are asked to take all possible steps to minimize impact on the workplace. People whose partners are also OIST employees may be able to share their childcare responsibilities between them. Those who enjoy the support of wider family members may also have short-term options to assist in balancing work and home.
- OIST does not ordinarily permit home working. In these exceptional circumstances, where feasible, home working will be permitted with manager approval. Staff should seek advice and agreement from their manager on the nature of tasks they can undertake, and OIST will provide – where needed – laptop and VPN access support to ensure information security.
- Any colleague who works from home with the agreement of their line manager will not be expected or required to work overtime. Overtime claims in these circumstances will not usually be accepted.
- During the Spring Break school vacation, special paid leave for school aged children will not be approved. Normal annual leave should be used for this.
In response to national guidelines on the COVID-19 coronavirus, OIST is now adopting the following measures:
- General visits to OIST, including large school tours, community visits, large delegations, conferences and workshops, and cultural events open to the general public are cancelled or postponed until April 29 and events beyond that date are under review.
- Essential visitors to campus are now asked questions at the Welcome Desk which relate to their recent respiratory health and travel activity, and they are also informed of the measures required to minimize spread of infection.
- Meeting participants at OIST (including at internal-only gatherings) should be encouraged to thoroughly wash hands before entering large conference room spaces, where disinfectants will be provided by the OIST Health Center. All staff and essential business visitors are asked to undertake thorough hand washing, use of disinfectant gels and wipes, and covering of the mouth and nose with a handkerchief, cloth or sleeve when coughing. Many people opt to wear a mask when in public spaces. This assists by preventing direct touching of the mouth and nose.
- OIST staff are asked to reconsider business trips and instead to explore options for virtual meetings. Some meetings in Tokyo have already been canceled. This is consistent with the latest Japanese government advice on COVID-19, which asks people seriously to consider their travel plans and the need to be in crowded environments. Neighboring international hub airports outside of China remain operational, with flights to and from Okinawa continuing at Taipei Taoyuan, Seoul Incheon and Hong Kong International. You should take account of the sharp increase in infection in these territories and seriously assess the need to travel.
- Please rest assured that in the event of COVID-19 infection within the OIST community, the University has already undertaken an assessment of organizational impact, and policies are in place to advise staff should there be any need for revised working arrangements. These will be supportive and clear. In the meantime, please take care to observe preventative guidelines issued to date, and should you experience any symptoms of concern, contact the OIST Clinic and stay away from the workplace until your condition has been fully assessed.
The Japanese government has updated its public advice on coronavirus (COVID-19) and issued new guidelines for consultation with Returnee and Contact Centers.
- have symptoms of a cold or a fever of 37.5 degrees or above for more than 4 days or
- need to keep taking medication such as aspirin, ibuprofen or paracetamol (acetaminophen), and have strong fatigue and/or respiratory problems
Anyone who has experienced persistent symptoms for 4 days or more should call the relevant number for advice.
Pregnant women, the elderly, people with diabetes, or those who have suffered from heart failure, respiratory disease, who use dialysis, immunosuppressants and anticancer drugs, are at increased risk. They should seek consultation if symptoms persist for 2 days and more.
We advised last week that a case of coronavirus (COVID-19) was identified in Okinawa.
Proper hand washing, use of disinfectant gels and wipes, and covering your mouth and nose with a handkerchief, cloth or sleeve when coughing, all helps to contain the spread of viruses. Many people opt to wear a mask when in public spaces. The Government asks – if you have cold symptoms such as fever or a cough – that you refrain from going out to schools, workplaces, and that you measure body temperature daily if symptoms persist.
As you know, OIST has already halted all business travel to and from China and has issued preventative advice to those who had to undertake essential personal travel in affected areas. As there is now a confirmed case in Okinawa, we have implemented heightened hygiene protocols on campus, which include disinfection of door knobs, elevator buttons, handrails and so forth.
The Conference and Workshops Section and Office of the Provost are working to assess the forthcoming academic event schedule. Arrangements have been made to support ‘virtual’ participation by video link where guests are prevented or choose not to travel from overseas. Updated guidance will be issued to conference and workshop hosts.
At present, international air transit hubs in Japan and in Taipei and Hong Kong are operating normally for connecting travel to countries other than China, although additional quarantine and screening measures are in place.
Currently the Child Development Center at OIST remains open. The CDC leadership team has written directly to parents and carers and will keep families updated on the situation as necessary.
Thank you for your vigilance in ensuring that we are doing all we can to respond appropriately.
A case of coronavirus (COVID-19) has now been identified in Okinawa. We would like to share the latest public health information issued by the Okinawa authorities, and to remind you of preventive measures which can help reduce the spread of infection.
Okinawa Prefecture requires people who may have symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever with a temperature of more than 37.5 degrees, respiratory symptoms such as coughing, or anyone who has had close contact with infected people or has symptoms after recent travel to areas where the virus has spread, to contact the designated Counselling Center by telephone:
Proper hand washing, use of disinfectant gels and wipes, and covering your mouth and nose with a handkerchief, cloth or sleeve when coughing, all helps to contain the spread of viruses. Many people opt to wear a mask when in public spaces.
If you are experiencing any symptoms which concern you please contact the OIST Clinic or call the numbers provided above.
As you know, OIST has halted all business travel to and from China and issued preventative advice to those who had to undertake essential personal travel in affected areas. As there is now a confirmed case in Okinawa, we have implemented heightened hygiene protocols on campus, which include disinfection of door knobs, elevator buttons, handrails and so forth.
Currently the Child Development Center remains open. The leadership team will of course keep parents and carers updated on the situation as necessary.
Thank you for your vigilance in ensuring that we are doing all we can to respond appropriately.