Biweekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 33 & 34, 2021
This newsletter was shared with Dujat members on 17-8-2021. The next newsletter was sent out today.
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Update on Japan
The Japanese government has decided to expand and extend a state of emergency aimed at containing the coronavirus pandemic.
The highly contagious Delta variant is fueling a surge in cases nationwide. At a news conference on Tuesday 17 August, Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide stressed the severity of the situation and pointed to the record 20,000 new infections reported last Friday.
He says now is the time for stricter measures, and called on the public to cooperate.
Suga said, “It’s extremely regrettable that we have caused enormous hardships to many Japanese and other people in the country. But with strong determination and with the cooperation of the citizens, we will overcome this crisis. We plan to comprehensively implement our measures, which fall under three pillars. They are improving the medical system, preventing infections, and carrying out vaccinations.”
The prime minister is calling for a drastic reduction in the flow of people, including a 70% cut in commuter footfall. He says this can be achieved through such measures as teleworking.
The state of emergency is the fourth since the start of the pandemic. It currently applies to Tokyo and five other prefectures. Officials will add seven more, including Kyoto and Fukuoka, starting this Friday.
They will also increase the number of prefectures under intensive quasi-emergency measures from the current six to 16, starting Friday.
Officials in the affected areas will urge restaurants and bars to stop serving alcohol and impose stricter procedures at shopping malls and events. Both the state of emergency and the quasi-emergency measures run through 12 September.
The health ministry says the number of severely ill patients nationwide exceeds 1,600 as of Tuesday. The figure is a new record for the fifth straight day. The government is preparing facilities such as oxygen stations to treat people whose conditions deteriorate.
It will also provide certain hospitals with two drugs used in a so-called antibody cocktail treatment. An overseas clinical trial shows it can reduce the risk of hospitalization or death by 70%.
Authorities across Japan reported nearly 20,000 new cases on Tuesday. About 20 prefectures posted record tallies.
The Tokyo Olympics concluded with the festive closing ceremony on the night of Sunday 8 August. The race for medals was highly competitive until the end, especially among the U.S. and China as well as host nation Japan.
On the final day of the Games, the U.S. retook the lead over China in the race for golds, ending up with 39, while China won 38. Japan was third with 27. The European Union’s member countries won 85 golds combined.
Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide, who has been criticized for forcing through the Games despite strong local opposition, has repeatedly said there is no evidence of the virus spreading from the Olympics, and organizing officials agree. While some 400 positive cases were reported inside the Olympic “bubble” from early July until the closing ceremony, that positivity rate is only a fraction of Tokyo’s overall, they say.
The Olympic Games were held with no spectators at most competition venues. Sources close to the Tokyo Paralympics, set to open on 24 August, say the organizers are also mulling events without spectators at prefectures where a coronavirus state of emergency is in place, such as Tokyo.
The officials of the Paralympic organizing committee plan to meet with representatives of the Tokyo Metropolitan and Japanese governments, as well as the International Paralympic Committee to decide on whether to allow spectators.
Sources say officials are considering banning spectators at venues in Tokyo and some other prefectures where coronavirus infections are surging despite the state of emergency. However, officials are carefully discussing school programs, which invite students of elementary, junior and senior high schools, and special-needs schools to the Games.
Some say children should be invited for the educational value, while others are concerned about infection risks, including those associated with using public transportation.
A rain front lingering over Japan is bringing more downpours to the southwestern region of Kyushu. The Meteorological Agency is calling on people to be on their guard, saying it may issue its highest alert again.
The front brought intense rain to much of eastern and western Japan intermittently from Wednesday 11 August through Monday. At some locations, the precipitation recorded during the period was more than three times the average rainfall for all of August.
Some rivers burst their banks, while mudslides engulfed some areas. Six people have been confirmed dead. Four people are missing. Six have been injured. More than 4,000 homes and other buildings have been damaged or flooded, mostly in Kyushu. Mudslide alerts remain in place in parts of the Kyushu region.
Weather officials are warning of more mudslides, overflowing rivers, and inundation of low-lying areas. Landslides were also seen in other parts of Japan, with three people including a child under 10 feared dead after a family home was engulfed in Nagano Prefecture, a local official told AFP on Sunday.
Scientists say climate change is intensifying the risk of heavy rain in Japan and elsewhere, because a warmer atmosphere holds more water.
Strong rain last month caused a devastating landslide in the central resort town of Atami that killed 23 people, with four still missing.
And in 2018, floods and landslides killed more than 200 people in western Japan during the country’s annual rainy season.
On Thursday 12 August, relatives commemorated the 36th anniversary of the Japan Airlines jet crash that claimed the lives of 520 crew and passengers in the world’s deadliest single-aircraft accident.
Members of bereaved families, many of them elderly, climbed the steep mountain trail to the Boeing 747’s crash site on Osutaka Ridge in Gunma Prefecture, northwest of Tokyo where they paid their respects and laid flowers at a monument. Participants were restricted mostly to kin for the second year amid the coronavirus pandemic.
A total of 143 relatives participated in the annual event Thursday, according to Japan Airlines Co, down significantly from over 270 until two years ago. They laid flowers around the monument erected at the crash site and a bell tolled as the relatives and others prayed for transport safety.
The trail was damaged by a typhoon in 2019 and is currently closed to general climbers as restoration work progresses. Local authorities temporarily suspended the work to allow access to the crash site for bereaved families.
A memorial ceremony was held in the village of Ueno at the foot of the mountain ridge in the evening, with participants observing a moment of silence at 6:56 p.m., the time of the crash.
Only a limited number of people including JAL and municipality officials attended the ceremony, while relatives watched a livestream of the ceremony on the village website.
On 12 August 1985, a packed JAL Flight 123 en route from Tokyo to Osaka, crashed about 40 minutes after takeoff. The crash claimed the lives of all but four of the 524 crew and passengers on board, many of whom were on their way home to see their families during Japan’s Bon summer holiday season.
In 1987, a Japanese government investigation commission concluded that the accident was caused by improper repairs conducted by Boeing Co on the plane’s rear pressure bulkhead, whose rupture blew off the craft’s vertical stabilizer and destroyed its hydraulic systems.
Japan will give national public employees up to 10 days of paid leave a year to receive fertility treatments starting next January, in a bid to support couples hoping to have a baby as the country grapples with a rapidly declining birth rate.
“The public sector will take the initiative,” said Kawamoto Yuko, president of the National Personnel Authority, indicating she hopes the move will encourage the private sector to follow suit.
An online survey, conducted in January and February, receiving responses from roughly 47,000 national public employees, showed 1.8% were undergoing fertility treatment while 10.1% said they have experience with it and 3.7% said they had considered it.
Among people who have experienced fertility treatment or were considering it, 62.5% said it was “very difficult” to balance it with work while 11.3% said it was “impossible,” the most common reasons being the need to make frequent visits to the doctor, cost and scheduling conflicts with work.
The National Personnel Authority’s new scheme aims to ease the burden by enabling full-time and part-time national public employees to take five days of paid leave, with five additional days available if necessary. The time off can be broken up and used flexibly, such as by taking a few hours off to see the doctor during work, for example.
Increasing access to fertility treatment has been a focus for Prime Minister Suga, who pushed for it to be covered by Japan’s public health insurance from next April.
The number of babies born in Japan fell to a record low of 840,832 in 2020, with the recent downward trend exacerbated by the social and economic impact of COVID-19.
The total fertility rate, or the average number of children a woman is expected to give birth to in her lifetime, stood at 1.34, down from the previous year by 0.02 point.
Japanese Foreign Minister Motegi Toshimitsu left Tokyo on Sunday 15 August for a trip to the Middle East including Iran and Israel, two countries that recently underwent changes in government.
The 10-day trip comes at a time when the democratic leadership of Afghanistan is teetering as Taliban insurgents tighten their grip on much of the country, a development that has stoked concerns about a potential spillover of instability across the region.
Motegi will also visit Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, Turkey and Qatar to discuss regional security issues as well as the response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry. It is his first trip to the Middle East since last October, when he visited Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
He has stressed the importance of building relationships of trust with the new governments of Iran and Israel, two key powers in the region that carries strategic importance to Tokyo due to it being a major source of oil.
Earlier in the month, anti-U.S. hard-liner Ebrahim Raisi took office as Iran’s president, vowing to pursue a nuclear program and calling for the lifting of international sanctions on Tehran. Motegi is expected to call on Iran to resume dialogue with U.S. President Joe Biden given bilateral nuclear talks have been stalled since June.
Among topics likely to be on the table is an attack on a tanker owned by a Japanese firm and operated by an Israeli company last month off the coast of Oman. The United States and Britain suspect Iran’s involvement in the incident.
Motegi’s visit is also timed to come soon after Israel’s first change of power in 12 years in June when Naftali Bennett was sworn in as prime minister following the resignation of Benjamin Netanyahu.
Motegi initially considered visiting Iraq as well, but the COVID-19 situation there has prevented him from doing so, according to the ministry.
Update on the Netherlands
On Friday 13 August, outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Minister Hugo de Jonge (Public Health) gave a detailed press conference about the measures against COVID-19.
During the press conference they also announced that from 20 September, the outgoing cabinet strives to drop the 1.5-meters distance rule as well as most other measures, including the face mask rule for spaces such as in public transport. The decision for this will be made on 17 September.
From then they also wish to drop the maximum capacity for catering and events, meaning that for example stadiums, catering, cinemas and theaters can be completely full again. Fixed seats will then no longer be a requirement, and they can also keep their regular opening hours.
To work with these possible changes from 20 September, people must work with a COVID Certificate in the catering industry, at events (such as festivals and sports competitions) and in art and culture (for example, cinemas and theaters) in case of groups of over 75 people. This applies everywhere: indoors and outdoors, with and without fixed seating.
You will receive such a certificate when you have been fully vaccinated, have recovered from a corona infection or have a negative test result. The test is currently free, but will require payment in the future (from when they are no longer free is currently not yet known).
Lastly, from 1 November, they hope other measures could be removed. Then the COVID Certificate would also no longer be necessary in the Netherlands, and discotheques and nightclubs would be able to open completely again.
These are all their hopes and speculations, if the numbers will allow it. For measures and changes as of Friday 13 August, you can view the overview below:
– In the new academic year from Monday 30 August, there is no longer a 1.5 meters distance- rule in MBO and higher education (HBO and university), which is earlier than the OMT advises, which leads to a few extra measures: There will be a maximum of 75 students per lecture room next school year. The use of mouth caps outside class is also mandatory. Students should also continue to self-test twice a week.ges:
– In secondary schools , students must continue to wear face masks in the new school year. The student and teacher must also continue to keep 1.5 meters distance from each other. The mask obligation only applies outside class, when students move between classrooms, for example. Students did not and do not have to keep their distance between themselves. Only 41% of young people have currently received a first shot. That number is too small to completely let go of the corona measures in secondary schools.
– Teachers and students who have been fully vaccinated for at least two weeks no longer need to be
quarantined if they were in contact with an infected person. Not fully vaccinated teachers and students test themselves twice a week preventively with a self-test. The risk-oriented testing is cancelled.:
– A fixed seat in the catering industry will remain mandatory for the time being, and the closing time will also remain midnight. The catering industry is also still not allowed to offer entertainment (such as live music) or screens (with sports games on them, for example).
– Nightclubs and discotheques where visitors cannot keep 1.5 meters distance must remain closed. The measures for events will also be extended, so they will remain limited (including a capacity of 66% and Testing for Access).
– The advice to work from home as much as possible and to avoid rush hour also continues to apply. Travelers can continue to test for free until 1 October.
In order to increase the vaccination rate as quickly as possible, it is no longer necessary to make an appointment at numerous vaccination locations throughout the country to receive a corona jab.
This was also announced by outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Minister Hugo de Jonge (Public Health) on Friday evening at the press conference about the corona virus.
On www.prikkenzonderafspraak.nl, people can see where they can visit without an appointment for a first injection. An appointment is immediately made on site for the second injection. Those who are interested only should only bring their ID and a face mask.
The corona dashboard shows that vaccination readiness in the Netherlands is currently at a very high 90%. The cabinet initially aimed for a vaccination readiness of 85%.
Nevertheless, the vaccination coverage in various age groups is still significantly lower. This mainly concerns young people who came last. Partly for this reason, it will remain mandatory for secondary education students to wear face masks for the time being, and they must also keep their distance from educational staff outside of class.
The air raid siren accidentally sounded in the Utrecht region just after 11:00 in the morning of Monday 16 August, and was heard for about a minute.
According to a spokesperson, this only happened in Utrecht, according to a spokesperson for the Security Region Utrecht.
The mistake due to an operating error, said the spokesperson. One of the siren poles was tested, but all the sirens in the region went off by accident.
Security Region Gelderland-Zuid reassured residents who may have heard the sirens from Utrecht on Twitter. “Fortunately nothing is wrong and no action is needed.” The Security Region Amsterdam-Amstelland also said that the alarm may have been heard in the border area with the Utrecht region.
The Dutch book sector struggling under paper shortage due to the corona crisis, NOS writes in a report on Monday 16 August.
Since the start of the corona crisis, Dutch consumers have been ordering much more online, including food to be delivered at home. Because of this, there has been a high demand for cardboard boxes, which in turn resulted in a shortage of paper. This has an big impact on the book sector, as it may happen that certain titles are temporarily unavailable
Mark Beumer, director of publishing house De Bezige Bij, also notices that the demand for paper is high. “Our printing company has warned us in recent months that it is more difficult to get paper,” he tells NU.nl.”Normally it takes a week to print a book, but now it’s three weeks. And you don’t want titles disappearing from the bestseller list because they are not available.” After all, books that are not available cannot be sold. The publisher has not run out of books so far, but has to place new orders very early.
“We are at the back of the line, that’s my impression. There are even book paper factories in Europe that are being converted to cardboard box factories. Apparently a lot more money is made in that sector,” said Robert Jan de Rooij, director and owner of Wilco – one of the Netherlands’ largest printing companies. Book printers are waiting longer and longer for deliveries. “The entire paper market is completely out of balance. If I want to have paper in stock, such an order normally takes a few weeks. Now I have to wait four months. So yes, sometimes publishers will have to wait for their books.”
Meanwhile, the CPNB, organizer of national book campaigns, is struggling with a problem as well. The agency has already ordered a lot of paper to print the 600,000 Boekenweek gifts. But now it has a different concern: finding enough cardboard to bring all the books to the bookstores and libraries.
Despite the paper shortage, books are selling well in the Netherlands. Market researcher GfK expects the turnover will be nearly 5% higher in 2021 than in 2020, which was already a good year for selling books. A total of 41 million books were sold last year, involving a turnover of almost 600 million euros – 6% more than in 2019.
The Dutch economy grew by no less than 9.7% in the second quarter of this year compared to the same period a year earlier, according to preliminary calculations by Statistics Netherlands (CBS) on Tuesday 17 August.
Compared to the first quarter, economic growth is 3.1%. The Netherlands is now officially out of recession. The Dutch economy is not back to pre-pandemic levels yet, but with coronavirus lockdown measure relaxing, it seems to be heading that way. In the second quarter, the hospitality and catering industry were gradually allowed to reopen, curfew was lifted, and cultural institutions could allow guests again.
The growth is the strongest year-on-year growth ever. This is mainly due to the lockdown that the Netherlands was in a year ago, as a result of which the gross domestic product (GDP) was considerably lower. Compared to the second quarter of 2019, the Dutch economy is still slightly smaller: 0.4%. This means that our country performs better than the European average, says Statistics Netherlands in an explanation.
Increased government consumption also contributed to the growth, but it was mainly household expenditure that contributed to the good figures, according to Statistics Netherlands. Households in the Netherlands spent 5.7% more in the second quarter than in the first three months of this year, while government consumption was 2.6% higher. A 4% increase in exports of goods also resulted in a better trade balance.
After half a year of economic contraction, the Dutch economy grew by 3.1% in the second quarter of this year, Statistics Netherlands said on Tuesday based on the currently available figures. This shows that the second coronavirus recession has come to an end.
Update on Dujat & Members
On Tuesday 17 August, Dujat in cooperation with Many Truths and Japan Intercultural Consulting organized an intercultural workshop at Amity International School Amsterdam. It was an educative and interesting event, where members could share their experiences and learn about the different aspects of cultural differences between Japan and the Netherlands.
We would like to specially thank Amity School for their kind hospitality during the school summer vacation as well as the wonderful workshop organization by Masako Kato (Many Truths), Chie Misumi (JIC) and Claudia Romberg (JIC).
Next month on Wednesday 15 September, we will organize the Future Mobility & Olympics Event at the Louwman Museum in The Hague, in cooperation with Louwman Group and AON. As usual, we will also provide bus transport from Amstelveen to the venue and back, for those who do not travel by car.
We are working on an interesting programme for you and plan to send out invitations next week. For now: save the date!
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Jinn van Gastel
Project Manager at Dujat
DUJAT (Dutch and Japanese Trade Federation)
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