Communications Updates

This is an archive of past emailed updates from the President and CPR. Please visit the home page for the most up-to-date information from OIST.

 

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.

  1. Travel and PCR Testing

MAIN CHANGE:

  • 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.

  1. 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.

This application:

  • 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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).
  1. 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.
  1. Masks
  • 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)
  1. Meetings
  • 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)
  1. 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.

Sorry that this is a long email. It still may not fully address questions you have, and these can be submitted to corona@oist.jp or you can also consult www.oist.jp/covid-19.

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.

PCR Testing

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.

This application:

  • 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.

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.

Dear Colleagues,

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 accounting-fa@oist.jp. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

The www.oist.jp/covid-19 web pages continue to display regularly updated advice and information. corona@oist.jp is also available for any questions you may have.

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 corona@oist.jp. 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.

RESEARCH COMMUNITY PROJECTS

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.

OIST COVID-19 GUIDANCE FOR STAFF AND STUDENTS

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.

OISTER SPOTLIGHT SERIES

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 corona@oist.jp  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!)

Best Regards,

Peter Gruss

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

The original article, published in Japanese, is attached, along with a full English translation.

 

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.

For example,
・ 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.

https://groups.oist.jp/csd/food-service

2. Café

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.

3. Restaurant

The renovation work will start after Golden Week. We will provide you with more details as these are determined.

4. Jimmy’s

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 corona@oist.jp. 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 corona@oist.jp 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 corona@oist.jp and we will do our utmost to get you the answers you seek.

Best regards,

Jonathan Ray

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.

Mary Collins

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.  

Best regards,

Peter Gruss

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 it-help@oist.jp 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 WORKING

  • 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 corona@oist.jp 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 (koji.fukuoka@oist.jp) , 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 corona@oist.jp. 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 corona@oist.jp 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.

People who

  • 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

are required to consult with Chubu Public Health Center (Returnee and Contact Center) at 098-938-9701. For non-Japanese speakers the number is 0570-050-235.

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.

References:

OIST Health Center
Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare

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:

Japanese speakers: Chyubu public health center (098-938-9701) or the prefectural health division (098-866-2215)
Non-Japanese speakers: 0570-050-235

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.