Biweekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 29 & 30, 2021
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Update on Japan
Athletes and sports officials are arriving in Japan ahead of the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony on Friday 23 July. Meanwhile, the Japanese capital remains under a state of emergency, reporting over 1,000 new coronavirus cases for five consecutive days.
The Japanese government implemented thorough coronavirus screenings at airports and is working with the Tokyo organizing committee and others to isolate Olympic athletes and staff away from the general public.
The government is also calling on people to refrain from nonessential travel across prefectural borders.
Japan’s Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide has stressed that the lack of spectators at most competition venues will not undermine the significance of the Tokyo Games. Suga spoke at the Session of the International Olympic Committee that opened in Tokyo on Tuesday 20 July, just three days ahead of the official start of the Olympics.
Noting that now is the time to unite, Suga said he wants to send a message globally that the Games can be held successfully, with the efforts and wisdom of the people.
The prime minister explained that the ratio of women athletes joining the Games has reached a record high under its theme of diversity and harmony. He said he hopes to powerfully show the world how reconstruction has progressed in northeastern Japan, which was ravaged by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Suga also suggested that Japan hopes to spread the notion of a barrier-free mindset through the Paralympics to realize a society where everyone can co-exist.
Suga said the Games will be different this time due to many restrictions. But he said priority will be placed on protecting the health and lives of the people, and he will also take thorough steps so that athletes and staff can participate with peace of mind. The prime minister said he is determined to realize a safe and secure Games.
With the competitions taking place without spectators at most venues, Japanese automaker Toyota, a sponsor for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, said it has canceled its Games-linked TV commercials in Japan.
The company, one of the Games’ worldwide partners, had considered having TV ads featuring athletes aired, even though it would not produce commercials to directly promote its products.
The company also said President Toyoda Akio plans to refrain from attending the Olympic opening ceremony on Friday. But to support the Games, it will provide more than 3,300 vehicles, including fuel-cell vehicles and autonomous-driving cars to be used in the Athletes’ Village.
Operating Officer Nagata Jun said his company will thoroughly support athletes and concentrate on contributing to the Games’ operation through transportation.
Nearly 80% of 47 prefectural capitals in Japan said they either have changed or intend to change their plans to vaccinate their local residents against COVID-19 amid a supply shortage of vaccines, a Kyodo News survey showed Saturday 17 July.
Of the surveyed local governments, 37 said their revised plans include suspending, delaying or scaling back reservations by residents, as the central government’s supplies of Pfizer Inc vaccine are not able to meet the pace of their inoculations.
A total of 33 cities, or 70%, said the amount of doses allocated for July remains less than half the desired amount, with Fukui, Okayama and Nagasaki saying they are receiving only about 20% of what they had expected to procure, according to the survey.
Five city governments said they have pushed back or may delay the second round of vaccination, which usually takes place about three weeks after the first shot. The vaccine can remain effective for up to six weeks from the inoculation, according to the central government.
The survey result came as local governments have complained that they were encouraged by the administration of Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide to rapidly expand vaccination capacity, only to be told that supplies could not keep up.
Kono Taro, the minister in charge of vaccination efforts, said Thursday that Japan has secured sufficient Pfizer doses for about 1.2 million vaccinations per day through September, compared with the current pace of 1.5 million. He called on prefectures and municipalities to “optimize” their schedules accordingly.
COVID-19 vaccines developed by Moderna Inc. and AstraZeneca Plc have also been approved in Japan. The Moderna vaccine had been used in vaccination programs at workplaces but hit a supply bottleneck recently.
The government has yet to start supplying the AstraZeneca vaccine due to rare cases of blood clots among younger people but is considering recommending its use for people aged 60 or older, according to sources familiar with the matter.
The survey also showed that a total of 32 local governments, or 68%, said they expect the amount of doses to be allocated for August and September to be insufficient, as the supplies remain almost the same as July’s level.
The so-called vaccine passports Japan plans to issue to allow people inoculated against COVID-19 to travel internationally will be free of charge, the government’s top spokesman said Monday 12 July.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato Katsunobu told a press conference that starting 26 July, people will be able to apply for the certificates in the municipalities where they were registered as a resident at the time they got their shots.
The Foreign Ministry’s website will feature a list of countries and regions that will ease quarantine measures for those with a vaccine passport, Kato said.
Japan is looking to have its vaccination passports accepted by over 10 nations, including Italy, France and Greece, according to government sources.
Kato said the certificates will be free of charge “for the time being” except for any postal fees, and may be issued as quickly as the same day as the application or take up to several days.
An antibody cocktail developed by U.S.-based Regeneron Pharmaceuticals was granted special emergency approval by Japan’s health ministry on Monday, opening up new opportunities to keep milder coronavirus cases from progressing and overwhelming health care providers on the ground.
Developed with Roche, the treatment was administered to then-U.S. President Donald Trump when he contracted COVID-19 last year. It received an emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that November.
“This is a big step forward,” Japanese Health Minister Tamura Norihisa told reporters Monday. “The treatment will be administered mainly to hospitalized patients who are at risk of developing severe symptoms,” he said.
Delivered via a one-time intravenous drip, the cocktail combines the monoclonal antibodies casirivimab and imdevimab, which bind to the surface of the virus to prevent its replication. It is intended for patients with underlying risks, such as chronic illness or obesity, with mild to moderate symptoms. It may be administered to both adults and children weighing 40 kg or more.
The treatment may also be effective against new versions of the coronavirus, such as the highly contagious delta variant first identified in India, according to the ministry. Shipments to health care providers throughout Japan will begin Tuesday.
A clinical trial found that the cocktail reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 70% in high-risk patients, according to Regeneron.
In addition, an Oxford University-sponsored trial on almost 10,000 patients found that it reduced mortality by a fifth and shortened hospitalizations by about four days among patients who previously had no coronavirus antibodies of their own.
“Treatments that have become available so far are generally intended for severe cases, so an approving an option for mild to moderate cases opens up more options for care,” said Urano Takeshi, a professor on the medical faculty at Shimane University. Preventing milder cases from worsening would help alleviate pressure on health care providers as well.
The Japanese government covers treatment costs for the coronavirus as a general rule, and the new cocktail will also be offered for free to patients. The government has signed a procurement deal with Chugai for the treatment for the rest of the year.
But some concerns remain. The antibody cocktail is reported to have worsened symptoms in patients ill enough to require high-flow oxygen and ventilators. Clinical trials also have not established its efficacy in patients who have been presenting symptoms for eight days or longer. The Japanese government will urge medical providers to administer the cocktail to qualifying patients as early as possible.
Three other treatments are now available for the coronavirus in Japan: Gilead Sciences’ remdesivir, dexamethasone and Eli Lilly’s baricitinib. All were originally developed for other illnesses, such as rheumatism.
While multiple studies have reported decreased mortality among patients receiving remdesivir, a clinical trial by the World Health Organization did not find that the drug improved survival. The body issued a conditional recommendation against the use of remdesivir in hospitalized patients.
Japanese treatment guidelines warn that remdesivir may not be effective in severe cases. But it is considered an effective option for moderate cases, and Japan expanded its indications to patients with pneumonia in January.
Meanwhile, certain hospitalized patients receiving baricitinib and remdesivir recovered in 10 days, as opposed to 18 with remdesivir alone, an eight-country study published in March. Dexamethasone is said to lower mortality in severe COVID-19 cases.
Japan is considering extending the maximum service period for its nuclear reactors beyond 60 years due to anticipated public opposition to the construction of new plants, sources close to the matter said.
The government is seeking to make long-term use of existing nuclear plants rather than building new ones or replacing reactors, as sought by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and some business circles.
But such an extension could spur concerns about the safety of aging reactors that are prone to accidents.
Following the 2011 Fukushima disaster, which was triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami, Japan introduced stricter safety standards limiting the operation of nuclear reactors to 40 years in principle.
But operation for an additional 20 years is possible if safety upgrades are made and a reactor passes screening by regulators.
The government plans to submit a bill to amend the law regulating nuclear reactors to the ordinary Diet session next year.
It will also discuss inspection and assessment methods to determine whether a reactor should be approved to operate for more than 60 years, referring to cases abroad such as in the United States where they can operate for up to 80 years.
In June, the No. 3 unit at Kansai Electric Power Co’s Mihama plant in Fukui Prefecture, central Japan, became the country’s first reactor to operate beyond 40 years under the new rules.
According to government sources, a proposal has been floated to revise the law to allow multiple extensions beyond 60 years providing screening standards are met.
There are also calls within the LDP to exclude from the 40-year cap reactors that have been suspended since the Fukushima disaster.
Japan currently has 33 operable nuclear reactors, with another three under construction. But with several set to reach their 60-year maximum lifespan in the 2040s, only about 20 reactors are expected to still be in operation by 2050 under the current rules.
As part of the 2018 basic energy plan, which is being reviewed, the government is aiming for nuclear power to account for 20 to 22% of the country’s electricity generation in fiscal 2030 to meet its greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal.
The government estimates that about 30 reactors will be required to cover that level of power generation.
The Japanese government has asked airlines to halt new bookings by the general public for flights arriving in Japan during the period when arrivals of athletes and delegation officials for the Tokyo Olympics increase, according to sources close to the matter.
With one week to go until the start of the Tokyo Olympics, the transport ministry is seeking to limit the number of arrivals to smoothly conduct coronavirus testing and other border controls at five Japanese airports to prevent the spread of COVID-19, they said.
Arrivals of visitors related to the Olympics are expected to peak on Sunday, they said.
The ministry has requested airlines to stop accepting new bookings for flights arriving at the five airports — Tokyo’s Haneda, Narita near the capital, Chubu in central Japan, Kansai in western Japan, and Fukuoka in southwestern Japan — during busy times of the day from last Sunday to next Thursday, the sources said.
During especially congested times, even bookings for visitors related to the Olympics may be halted, while transit passengers are exempted from the request.
If there is an increase in reservations during the busy period despite the request to halt new bookings, the ministry may ask airlines for the reason and demand that they be canceled if it deems the airlines were not following the request.
The latest initiative comes as the government has said it will restrict the average number of new daily arrivals in the country to 2,000 as a step to tighten coronavirus border controls.
Based on the reservation status, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism expects the number of arrivals to reach the daily upper limit in July and August.
It has asked foreign airlines to curb the number of passengers per flight to 40 or below, excluding those in transit and related to the Summer Games, until the end of August.
For Japanese airlines, the ministry has asked them to restrict the number to 3,400 passengers a week.
Update on the Netherlands
High water and flooding in the Netherlands | July 2021 | Drone images | Rijkswaterstaat (original link)
Last week, heavy rain has brought widespread flooding to parts of Limburg, Germany and Belgium. The Dutch government has declared the regional floods as an official disaster, which means they will use state funds to pay for the damage.
“It is very clear that the situation is disastrous,” Prime Minister Mark Rutte told reporters on Thursday evening. After major floods in 1993 and 1995, the Dutch government invested €2.4 billion on providing better flood plains, but that work has not been enough to deal with such a volume of water. Over 10 centimeters of water fell in 24 hours, and over 20 centimetres over the three day period – a once in a thousand year occurrence, experts say.
While the catastrophic floods have caused widespread damage in the Netherlands, the problems have been far more severe in in Germany and Belgium, where the death toll has risen to more than 180, as emergency services continued their search for hundreds still missing.
In the Netherlands, at least 550 households were evacuated in Roermond, while authorities in Venlo evacuated about 200 hospital patients due to the looming threat of flooding from the river.
The flooding in Limburg has caused some “several hundreds of millions” of euros in damages in Valkenburg alone, mayor Daan Prevoo estimated. The heavy rainfall also caused a dike to break in Hattem, Gelderland, though no homes or businesses are in danger there, the security region said.
More than €5,291,784 has already been raised for Limburg with fundraiser Giro 777, Treasurer Lodewijk van der Kroft said on Monday 19 July.
In South Limburg, most people who live on the Maas are back at home. Echt-Susteren followed on Saturday evening, and on Sunday many thousands of residents of Roermond and Venlo were able to return to their homes.
There will be no additional measures to combat the coronavirus for the time being. On the advice of the OMT, the cabinet sees no reason to do so, said outgoing Prime Minister Rutte after the weekly consultation with the most involved ministers. “I may be here next week with a very different story, but I sincerely hope not.”
Health Minister De Jonge said that the number of new positive tests is still too high, but is stabilizing. “They don’t rise anymore.” According to him, about 9,000 infections have been detected today, which is slightly less than in recent days.
De Jonge pointed out that the high number of new positive tests has not yet led to a large increase in patients in hospitals. “Let’s keep it that way.” According to him, it proves that vaccination works. This makes people less sick.
According to De Jonge, the figures also show that vaccination works against infection: “We see that 85% of the people who now have a positive test are unvaccinated people.”
In last week’s corona debate, Prime Minister Rutte already announced that working from home will become the norm again. As of today, that is indeed the case. “Everyone works at home, unless there really is no other option,” said Rutte. The cabinet previously let go of that advice, thereby going against the OMT.
Rutte also emphasized the importance of good ventilation in indoor spaces to prevent the spread of the virus. “Every day at least fifteen minutes of fresh air through the house.” According to him, this also applies to schools, shops and the catering industry. The advice is added to the basic rules, such as washing hands and keeping 1.5 meters distance.
Companies in Limburg that had to close their doors in recent days due to the flooding can rely on the NOW and TVL schemes, said outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Monday. The schemes were originally intended to support companies that suffered loss of turnover due to the corona crisis.
The outgoing cabinet discussed the situation in the province of Limburg on Monday. Rutte says the corona support the cabinet has now been providing for just over a year can also be used for loss of turnover due to flooding. “We do not distinguish between loss of turnover, so those regulations also apply to the serious situation in Limburg,” he said. “The cabinet is monitoring the situation and is examining whether more is needed.”
With the NOW support, companies can be compensated for part of their wage costs if they have suffered at least a 20% loss in turnover compared to the same quarter in 2019. The TVL support is there to be able to continue to pay the fixed costs, such as electricity and rent. .
Rutte also advised companies to properly map out the damage and to take photos. This is necessary for the Disaster Compensation Act and for insurers.
The Outbreak Management Team (OMT) advises to request a negative test result from all visitors – vaccinated and unvaccinated – to major events and busy catering establishments.
In addition, the experts recommend investigating whether the CoronaCheck app should not only give access to a catering facility once a day, according to the OMT advice published in the evening of Monday 19 July.
The OMT says it cannot be ruled out that groups are causing spread of the coronavirus as they move from one venue to the next. Research should show whether the CoronaCheck app can and should therefore only be used once every 24 hours to gain access to a location.
The OMT found that a ‘green’ code in the CoronaCheck app is not automatically withdrawn in the event of a positive test due to a full vaccination. As a result, people who test positive can still gain access to locations and venues where a negative test is required.
The experts, together with Fieldlab, previously advised to test all visitors and employees within 24 hours before the end of an event. According to the cabinet, this was legally complicated and that is why people were allowed to have themselves tested up to forty hours before the start of an event, a reconstruction by NRC showed on Monday .
After the relaxation on 26 June, the number of corona infections increased at a rapid pace. This was mainly due to the reopening of the nightclubs using Tests for Access and the emergence of the more contagious delta variant. The relaxations were therefore partly reversed on 9 July, as a result of which nightclubs had to close their doors again.
However, most infections were incurred before the tightening, the OMT writes. Therefore, the situation will be “closed” in the coming days and weeks.
The color red for the Netherlands on the corona map of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) is causing significant damage to the travel industry.
Due to the new situation, many travelers have become insecure, and phone calls about rebookings and cancellations at travel organizations are increasing, said chairman Frank Oostdam of travel industry organization ANVR on Saturday. According to Oostdam, the damage would amount to tens of millions of euros.
They were well on their way to turning green again on the corona map, and now they are suddenly red, said the industry leader. The result is that other European countries are now tightening their entry policies and making it more difficult for Dutch people to spend their holidays there.
Since the infection numbers in the Netherlands have risen sharply, there has also been a lot of unrest, says Oostdam. In the past week, the number of bookings with travel companies has collapsed, he says. And package holiday providers would receive many disturbed calls from people who, for example, want to rebook or cancel their trip.
The latter can be done free of charge if the travel advice for a country changes to ‘orange’. This was recently the case for the Spanish islands, for example. TUI and Sunweb immediately announced that they would no longer fly to Spain for the time being, as a result of which many holidays no longer take place in one fell swoop.
The outgoing cabinet recently came up with extra support for the events sector, but no additional help has yet been announced for the travel industry. “We feel left out in the cold. I wish the event sector because many festivals are cancelled. But we also have thousands of canceled bookings,” says Oostdam. He wants to write a letter to the government about this and is still considering further steps.
In any case, according to him, the government support should be extended until the first quarter of 2022. The cabinet previously announced that it wanted to stop the support as of 1 October, but in Oostdam’s view that is too early.
Update on Dujat & Members
We welcome everyone to sign up for our intercultural workshop, which will take place on Tueday 17 August at Amity International School Amsterdam. Invitations were sent last week. Feel free to sign up on our Event Site using your e-mail address – all members on our mailinglist should be able to register, should you experience any problems, please contact email@example.com.
On Saturday 10 July, Dujat members, friends and family could witness the semi-finals of the Amstelveen Women’s Open tennis tournament, which was combined with an informal networking lunch. With the weather on our side and cooperation of the venue, we were delighted this event could take place safely according to the corona measures.
We specially thank KNLTB for organizing this event with us, our special guests H.E. Mr. Horinouchi, Ambassador of Japan to the Netherlands and Mr. Poppens, Mayor of Amstelveen, and of course our members for their attendance.
Last week on Thursday 15 July, Nippon Express (Nederland) B.V. officially opened their brand-new warehouse at Schiphol Trade Park in Hoofddorp. Congratulations!
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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