Biweekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 27 & 28, 2021
This newsletter was shared with Dujat members on 6-7-2021. The next newsletter was sent out today.
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Update on Japan
Japan is set to extend its coronavirus quasi-state of emergency in Tokyo and three nearby prefectures a little more than two weeks ahead of the opening of the Olympic Games, Nikkei has learned.
A recent jump in coronavirus infections has prompted the government to postpone ending the voluntary restrictions on business and other activities the capital and neighboring Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba, together home to more than 30 million people. The measures were were originally set to end on 11 July.
Officials have proposed extending the measures for about another month, until after the Tokyo Olympics. This year’s games are scheduled to open on 23 July and last until 8 August. The government will make an announcement on its decision as early as Thursday.
New coronavirus cases are rising and occupancy rates for hospital beds remain high. Ten prefectures, including Tokyo, are currently under the quasi emergency while Okinawa is under a COVID-19 state of emergency with tougher restrictions until 11 July.
“We need to reach a conclusion as soon as possible,” Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide said on Monday.
Olympic organizers had initially said that they would allow 10,000 domestic spectators, or up to 50% of capacity, at each venue. However, that decision was based on the lifting of the quasi-emergency on 11 July.
If Suga does extend the quasi-state of emergency on Thursday, the Tokyo 2020 committee plans to hold a five-party meeting including the International Olympic Committee and other organizers on the same day to discuss the number of spectators. There is speculation that organizers will halve the number of spectators or even disallow any altogether if the quasi-emergency was to be extended, as was raised at the previous meeting in June.
The government will also consider tightening restrictions on serving alcohol, or even ban it, in areas under the quasi-emergency. Currently, restaurants are able to serve alcohol until 7 p.m. as long as certain measures are in place. Unlike the tougher COVID state of emergency, the government under the quasi-state does not have legal power to demand the closure of businesses.
On Monday, the number of newly infected people in Tokyo totaled 342. The figure has been increasing steadily over the past few days. The hospital occupancy rate in Tokyo and its three neighboring prefectures remains high at around 20% to 30%.
Rescuers continue to search for who may have been trapped by deadly mudslides which tore through Atami city about 90 kilometers from Tokyo.
The disaster began on Saturday at around 10:30 a.m. at a river near the city in Shizuoka Prefecture, which is around 90 kilometes from Tokyo and is famous as a hot spring resort. A torrent ripped through the city, washing away about 130 buildings including many homes.
Officials in Atami have confirmed the safety of another 41 people but 29 people remain unaccounted for. A crucial 72-hour window for finding survivors has closed. Four women have been confirmed dead. Crews continue to wade through mud and debris in a desperate search.
Earlier, officials released the names of 24 people who remain unaccounted for. That number has gone up after police received five new reports about people whose whereabouts are unknown.
Much of Japan is currently in its annual rainy season, which lasts several weeks and often causes floods and landslides, prompting local authorities to issue evacuation orders.
Scientists say climate change is intensifying the phenomenon because a warmer atmosphere holds more water, resulting in more intense rainfall. More than 200 people died as devastating floods inundated western Japan in 2018.
The highest evacuation alert, which urges people “to secure safety urgently”, has been issued to Atami city which has more than 20,000 households, according to NHK. Residents in many other cities in Shizuoka have also been ordered to evacuate.
Around 2,800 homes in Atami have been left without power, according to the Tokyo Electric Power Company.
Shinkansen bullet trains between Tokyo and Osaka were temporarily stopped due to the heavy rain, while other local trains in rain-affected areas were also halted, rail company websites said. The Shinkansen bullet train was then again, for safety checks, temporarily suspended. Officials are warning that even a small amount of rain could cause more landslides.
Japan is making arrangements for its COVID-19 vaccination passports to be accepted by over 10 nations, including Italy, France and Greece, after the certificate program begins in late July, government sources said Sunday.
If the agreements are reached, certificate holders will be exempt from quarantine or showing negative test results for COVID-19 when traveling from Japan to those countries, the sources said.
But the Japanese government plans to continue requiring travelers entering Japan, including returnees, to quarantine for two weeks even if they have been vaccinated. The position has complicated negotiations with countries such as Singapore and Israel, which have called for mutual exemption, the sources said.
So-called vaccine passports are official documents showing a person has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The certificate, to be issued by municipalities, will include the holder’s name, passport number and date of vaccination.
Business circles in Japan have been calling for the introduction of vaccine passports. The country’s largest business lobby, the Japan Business Federation, known as Keidanren, proposed in late June that such certificates be in digital format.
A quasi-state of emergency is in place for urban areas like Tokyo amid fears of the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus. “Until we see the spread of the Delta variant subside, it will be difficult to allow the mutual exemption of quarantine,” a Japanese government source said.
Japan has a sweeping entry ban on foreign nationals to cope with the pandemic, except those with approval given under “special exceptional circumstances.” Travelers entering Japan are asked to stay at home or a designated facility for 14 days after arrival.
The European Union has its own digital vaccination passport for EU citizens and residents. Certificate holders are exempt from testing and quarantine when traveling to a different country within the bloc. The World Health Organization does not endorse making vaccine passports mandatory for travelers as equal access to COVID-19 vaccines has not been ensured.
Fans are likely to be banned from the Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony over virus fears, but a reduced number of VIPs and Olympic officials will be able to attend, a Japanese newspaper reported.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) representatives, foreign dignitaries, sponsors and others connected to the Games will be allowed into the National Stadium to watch the July 23 ceremony, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper said late on Monday.
But under plans currently being discussed, fans would be locked out as organizers rethink attendance limits as concerns grow over rising virus cases in Tokyo.
The report, which cited several unnamed government sources, said organizers are working to whittle down the expected 10,000 “Olympic family” members to a level the Japanese public would find acceptable.
“Some people in government are concerned that the public won’t accept them being given special treatment,” it said. “They’d like the number of people attending to be reduced to the hundreds.”
Games organizers last month set a limit of 10,000 domestic fans, or half of each venue’s capacity. Overseas fans have already been barred. But a rise in infections has forced a rethink, with Games president Hashimoto Seiko warning last week that a closed-door Olympics remains an option.
The government is this week expected to extend anti-virus measures in Tokyo and elsewhere, with a decision on Olympic fans to follow. Organizers were considering banning spectators from events in larger venues and in the evening. said the newspaper.
The announcement of the results of a ticket lottery for oversubscribed events was on Monday rescheduled to Saturday, less than two weeks before the opening ceremony.
Japanese companies are starting to accelerate their overseas expansion, with the value of outbound mergers and acquisitions surging in the second quarter to nearly six times the amount recorded during its pandemic low.
Japan Inc. logged 182 deals during the April-June period, up 56% from a year ago, with total value jumping 455% to hit 2.16 trillion yen ($19 billion), according to data from M&A consultancy Recof.
The pick-up in deal-making signifies Japan’s hunger for growth, especially as the country faces a declining population. Corporate Japan had been on a global M&A spree before the coronavirus outbreak as more companies sought to diversify their businesses and invest overseas. In 2019 the overall number of overseas acquisitions hit a historic high of 826.
Once the pandemic hit, many companies reined in investments as concerns over the global economy and supply chain disruptions rose. Many businesses also prioritized protecting their employees and preserving cash instead of increasing investments.
However, as the vaccine rollout accelerates across certain countries and global superpowers like the U.S. and China show signs of economic recovery, the appetite in Japan for cross-border M&A is gradually recovering.
In the second quarter, overseas acquisitions gained pace even when compared to the January-March period. Deal numbers rose 29% from the first quarter, while total value increased 9%. Total deal value for the first half of 2021 has already reached 4.1 trillion yen, on a par with 2020’s overall deal value of 4.4 trillion yen.
BIZIT, which operates an online investment matching platform under global M&A advisory GCA Corp., said: “The momentum for overseas acquisitions is starting to pick up, with more companies accessing our platform in the last two to three months.”
The biggest acquisition announced so far this year was by Hitachi. The electrical equipment company is set to acquire U.S. software developer GlobalLogic for $9.6 billion as it aims to advance Lumada, its key Internet of Things platform.
Another Japanese electronics company, Panasonic, also plans to complete its acquisition of Blue Yonder, a U.S. developer of supply chain management systems, for $7.1 billion — its biggest acquisition in a decade.
“Most of the deals that are going through are Japanese companies buying software makers or IT-related firms,” said Keishi Sakakibara, the manager for cross-border deals at Nihon M&A Center, Japan’s largest independent M&A firm.
Nihon M&A Center’s Sakakibara expects deals to continue picking up as countries reopen business travel and inoculation speeds up. Japan aims to complete vaccinating its citizens by October or November. “I think the cross-border M&A market will have a bright outlook starting next year as vaccinations progress.”
Meanwhile, BIZIT points out that there have been some difficulties completing deals. “While sellers want the deal to go through at the highest price possible, COVID impacts to earnings are making it hard for buyers and sellers to agree on a price,” it said, leading to a postponement of some deals.
Update on the Netherlands
People born in 2005 can make an appointment for a corona vaccination, said outgoing minister Hugo de Jonge (Public Health) on Sunday.
About COVID-19 vaccination in the Netherlands:
- About 16 million injections have now been taken in the Netherlands.
- Four vaccines are in use: Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen.
- A vaccination reduces the risk of getting sick.
- Vaccination also reduces the chance that you will transmit the coronavirus.
- Vaccines still seem to protect against variants.
People born in 2005 can schedule an appointment from 10:00. They can make an appointment via the website or call the national appointment number (0800-70 70). They don’t have to wait until they receive the invitation.
The Health Council ruled on Tuesday 6 July that all young people from the age of twelve can be vaccinated, if they wish. They say it provides health benefits for both the young and the older age groups. Because although most young people experience little trouble from an infection, in rare cases a serious inflammatory reaction can occur; MIS-C. This attacks multiple organ systems – such as the heart and digestive organs – which can lead to life-threatening situations.
Vaccination can further exclude these already very rare situations. Since the corona pandemic, MIS-C has occurred 83 times in children and adolescents, the council writes. At that time, 280,000 children and adolescents became infected with the corona virus. The actual number of MIS-C cases is probably higher, because the registration is behind schedule. To our knowledge, no child or adolescent has died from the complication.
Even if MIS-C does not occur, young people still occasionally have to go to hospital because of an infection. According to the council, 101 young people between the ages of 13 and 17 have been hospitalized since September. Two adolescents aged 15 to 19 years died. They both had underlying medical conditions.
Vaccination prevents the spread of the virus, so that fewer young people become infected and become seriously ill. With fewer infections in society, fewer corona measures need to be in force, such as quarantine periods and the closing of schools or classes. This prevents a negative effect on the mental health of young people, according to the council.
Vaccinating young people can also ensure that fewer elderly people become seriously ill, because vaccines prevent virus spread to a certain extent, the Health Council writes.
RIVM has calculated, among other things, that vaccinating young people from the age of 12 has a positive effect on the reproduction number, the number of hospital and IC admissions and death rates. A corona wave in the autumn could largely be prevented.
All youth will receive the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine, which has been found to be safe for anyone 12 years of age or older. Young people aged 16 and over can decide for themselves whether they want to be vaccinated.
The Health Council advises all newborns to be vaccinated with the rotavirus vaccine.
Studies abroad show that the number of hospitalizations of children infected with the virus could fall by 80%, the council writes.
The rotavirus can cause inflammation in the stomach and intestines. According to the RIVM, almost every child under the age of 5 has to deal with the virus. Contamination occurs when the virus ends up in the mouth, through contact with infected persons or objects. Symptoms include fever, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. These symptoms usually appear after two days. There is a high risk of dehydration with an infection.
The vaccination against the virus should be included in the National Vaccination Programme, according to the Health Council. An oral vaccine is available for children up to six months of age. At the end of last year, pediatricians already called for young children to be vaccinated and protected against rotavirus. Also to relieve the pressure on healthcare due to the coronavirus.
Every year, about 3600 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized with the rotavirus. In particular, children who were born prematurely, had a low birth weight or who have a congenital disorder of, for example, the heart, nervous system or intestines, become very ill. In 2017, the Health Council recommended that children from such risk groups should be vaccinated against rotavirus.
In its advice to the State Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, the council writes that the price of the available vaccines must still fall in order for the vaccinations to be “cost-effective”.
It took more than 25 years to work on, it cost the Netherlands 235 million euros and the launch was delayed time and again. However, it should really happen later this month: a robot arm largely from Dutch origins will go to the international space station ISS. A historical moment.
It concerns the European Robotic Arm (ERA), a robot arm that was designed and built by the Leiden company Dutch Space, the former Fokker Ruimtevaart. The robot arm is made in such a way that it can ‘walk’ along the outside of the ISS. Among other things, he has to help with spacewalks.
The arm can lift crew members to their workplace. In addition, the device can take experimental equipment from the ISS as a crane and place it outside in space. The ERA can also inspect the exterior of the space station for damage. This means that the people on board are less at risk.
“The arm can also move stuff out of the airlock, which saves another spacewalk,” explains Jasper Wamsteker, spokesperson for the Netherlands Space Office (NSO) to RTL Nieuws. “The arm can also move an astronaut somewhere. Compare it to a scaffold that you can put against your house when painting.”
On 15 July, the ERA should be launched from Russia. Initially, the arm was supposed to go to the ISS as early as 2002. That didn’t work out. A mission in 2007 was also scrapped.
After that, it was intended that the Dutch astronaut André Kuipers would receive the Dutch robotic arm during his mission in 2012 and be the first to use it. Problems with Russian missiles then prevented this. Even after that, the launch of the ERA was postponed a few more times.
The makers of the arm are “proud and excited” that it is finally happening. “It is not the first Dutch contribution to space,” says Wamsteker. “A lot of Dutch high-tech has already been launched into space. The Netherlands has quite a long history of space travel, especially when it comes to parts of satellites.”
The arm cost 360 million euros, of which 235 million euros was paid by the Netherlands. A prototype of the arm was presented to State Secretary Mona Keijzer who is responsible for space travel. The real robotic arm is already on the Russian launch site, ready to be launched into space.
Since Saturday, there has been a ban on some single-use plastic products in the European Union. Plastic straws or cups made of EPS foam (a type of Styrofoam) will no longer be on the market from now on. Existing stock may still be sold. After 2021, additional measures will be taken: producers will have to contribute to the collection of waste and the cleaning up of litter.
The goal: to reduce the amount of plastic waste in the oceans. The so-called ‘single-use plastics’ end up in the water relatively often. Between 5 and 13 million tons flow into the oceans every year.
In the Netherlands, the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (ILT) is responsible for enforcing the plastic ban. Especially during this first period, producers, suppliers and sellers do not have to worry about strict inspections.
“No, for the time being we are not handing out fines and there is no special unit of the plastic police around,” says an ILT spokesperson. “Now it’s mainly about informing everyone as well as possible about the new legislation. If we receive signals that a company is not complying with the rules, we will issue a warning. If that doesn’t help, eventually a fine will follow.”
Due to the ban, many industries have had to look for an alternative in the form of cardboard, wood, paper or recyclable plastic. For example, the plastic straws at McDonald’s have been replaced by paper ones and the spoons of a McFlurry are now made of wood.
Many customers have to get used to the new materials, they report on social media. Wooden spoons? They have a nasty aftertaste. Paper straws? Just like eating a wet newspaper.
That is why Gianmarco Tutone, owner of snackbar Kwalitaria Prinsenland in Rotterdam, uses paper straws with a plastic layer. “Plastic that can be recycled very well and is therefore not on the blacklist of single-use plastic. Due to this mix of plastic and paper, we still use more sustainable material and our customers remain happy, because soggy straws are nothing.”
Tutone’s business falls under the Kwalitaria formula, the largest snackbar chain in the Netherlands, with 130 locations. It is an industry where a lot of disposable plastic is used, such as cutlery, chips and snack trays and straws. “But that is changing quickly. For example, we have stopped using plastic forks and bags for some time now. They have been replaced by wood and paper.”
The well-known chips and snack containers are not on the list of prohibited plastics, but Tutone does not expect this to remain the case. “The trays will also be replaced in due course. We are working on a new packaging line in which cardboard plays the leading role. The point is that cardboard is three times more expensive than plastic. There is a good chance that we will pass on those costs. A portion of fries will probably become more expensive.”
That might also apply to a takeaway from the Chinese. A spokesperson for the Association of Chinese-Asian Horeca Entrepreneurs says that the famous white boxes of the takeaway meals are still allowed, but that an alternative is being desperately sought. “That is quite difficult, because those plastic containers are ideal for keeping food warm. Especially for hot sauces it’s hard to find anything else. Other materials are often a lot more expensive.”
Schools may have to close their doors in the short term due to the rising teacher shortage. Aldermen of education from The Hague, Rotterdam and Amsterdam warn against this in the AD on Monday. Even now, classes are sporadically sent home.
A letter to parliament recently revealed that there are major teacher shortages in the major cities. Amsterdam (12.5%), Rotterdam (12.7%), The Hague (14.9%) and Almere (14.6%) have the largest shortages.
In Rotterdam, the situation is “downright worrying” in some places, said alderman Said Kasmi in the AD. “Sporadically, schools have already had to send classes home. The shortages are significant and will only increase in the coming years.”
The alderman in Amsterdam, Marjolein Moorman, paints a similar picture. “I have already spoken to several boards this week who say that they cannot open certain schools after the summer holidays.”
The education aldermen of Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam note that the shortages are increasing in part due to the backlogs incurred as a result of the corona crisis.
Earlier this year, the outgoing cabinet decided to invest 8.5 billion euros to make up for the arrears caused by the corona crisis. According to the cabinet, this is a good financial basis for coping with the consequences of the corona pandemic.
The alderman of Amsterdam does not fully agree. “We miss the link with tackling the teacher shortage. That’s where money has to go on a structural basis.”
According to the alderman of The Hague, there is still a lot of uncertainty about the destination of the money. “As municipalities, we want to use the money to support the schools. So that they can deploy teachers and project staff, for example. We just don’t have any idea yet how much money it is and when it will come.”
Update on Dujat & Members
We are pleased to announce two new members have joined our network: Tokio Marine HCC and Buren N.V. whose representatives will hopefully get acquainted with many of you soon at our upcoming networking events. Welcome!
Last week on Thursday the 1st of July, Dujat in cooperation with City of Almere organized an event where members gathered in Almere for a visit to Yanmar Stadium and a preview at the terrain of Floriade Expo 2022. For many it was the first business event since the outbreak of COVID-19, a breath of fresh air after a long time of virtual meetings and webinars. To read more and view the photos, we refer to our website.
Coming up next soon are event invitations for the Intercultural Workshop on Tuesday 17 August, and from this week we will also open pre-registrations for the Dujat & Asunaro Golf + Lunch event on Saturday 25 September.
KLM has offered updated information about their flights to Tokyo, Osaka, and a convenient overview of their COVID-19 measures. To view and/or download the complete document, click here. We also published it on the News & Information page in the members area on our website. Feel free to contact our office if you lost the login details.
The Van Gogh Museum is proud of the long-standing cultural exchange with Japan. As the first Dutch museum to collaborate with the Olympic and Paralympic Games, we are delighted to be part of the TeamNL Tokyo Expo, a digital platform combining sports, culture and business.
Join our webinar on 9 July with Olympic skateboarders Candy Jacobs and Keet Oldenbeuving exploring the influence of Japan on Van Gogh’s art and revealing the many similarities between skateboarding and how Vincent worked and was driven to succeed.
The TeamNL Tokyo Expo is hosted by TeamNL, Papendal, NOC*NSF and the Government of the Netherlands (Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken, Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland (RVO), Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Japan).
If your company has any news to share in the next biweekly newsletter, let us know by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jinn van Gastel
Project Manager at Dujat
DUJAT (Dutch and Japanese Trade Federation)
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