Biweekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 39 & 40, 2021
This newsletter was shared with Dujat members on 28-9-2021. The next newsletter was sent out today.
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Update on Japan
Japan’s Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide has officially announced he will not extend the coronavirus state of emergency when it expires on Thursday.
This will be the first time since April that all emergency measures will be lifted in Japan. But Suga says he wants to lift anti-virus precautions in phases to avoid another surge in cases.
Earlier it was already announced that Japan’s coronavirus advisory panel has approved the plan to end the state of emergency and quasi-measures when the terms expire on Thursday. Economic Revitalization Minister Nishimura Yasutoshi briefed the experts on Tuesday about the government plan.
He said new case counts have considerably declined across the country and the number of seriously ill people has fallen to less than half the peak levels. Nishimura noted that hospital bed occupancy rates are below 50% in all areas and the strain on healthcare has noticeably improved.
The emergency directive currently covers 19 prefectures including Tokyo and Osaka. Eight other prefectures are under less stringent measures. All will expire at the end of September.
Officials in those areas have been urging restaurants and bars not to serve alcohol. They’ve also been calling on shopping malls and event organizers to cap the number of visitors.
Meanwhile, new infection data suggests the current outbreak has peaked in Japan. Monday’s tally in Tokyo fell below 200 for the first time in six months. But the prime minister wants to lift anti-virus measures gradually.
Local authorities will continue asking restaurants and bars to shorten their business hours for another month. Those eateries will be able to serve alcohol until 9 PM.
The Japanese government said Monday it will ease quarantine rules for people entering the country who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 starting 1 October, shortening the required period for self-isolating at home from 14 days to 10 days.
People who have been fully vaccinated will be able to go outside as long as they test negative for the virus after 10 days following their arrival, Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato Katsunobu told a press conference.
Only shots developed by Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca are eligible, and a “vaccine passport” either issued in or recognized by Japan is required.
People traveling from some countries including Britain and India that Japan sees as having a heightened risk of introducing coronavirus variants had needed to spend the first three of the 14 days in a government-designated facility, but will no longer be required to do so if they are fully vaccinated.
Meanwhile, Japan will tighten quarantine rules for travelers from nine countries, who will now need to spend the first six of the 14 days in a government-designated facility with no exemptions for those that have gotten both of their shots.
The countries are Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Colombia, Peru, the Philippines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela.
Japan currently does not allow the entry of foreign nationals in principle, with arrivals mostly limited to Japanese citizens and foreign nationals already living in the country.
Kato said the relaxed quarantine rules were the first in a series of steps in “a review of our border measures.”
“Going forward, we will consider allowing entry depending on the COVID-19 situation abroad, while taking steps including restrictions on movement and testing,” he said.
Japan will conduct an experiment using proof of COVID-19 vaccination at professional baseball and soccer stadiums in preparation for easing capacity restrictions, a cabinet minister said Monday.
The experiment is expected to be conducted in October as Japan continues seeing a steady decline in newly reported coronavirus cases, according to top officials of Nippon Professional Baseball and soccer’s J.League, who held a meeting with Nishimura Yasutoshi, minister in charge of the country’s coronavirus response.
“We’d like to make further adjustments and conduct the experiment at an appropriate time,” Nishimura said when holding discussions with NPB Secretary General Atsushi Ihara and J.League Chairman Murai Mitsuru.
Murai said the start of the experiment could be as early as 1 October, while Ihara said NPB wants to get started by the end of next month.
Currently, the maximum number of spectators allowed for professional baseball and soccer games is 5,000 in Tokyo and other areas subject to a COVID-19 state of emergency or a quasi-state of emergency.
Once those measures against the virus are lifted, the cap for major sporting events will be raised to 10,000.
The government plans to lift the latest emergency declaration covering Tokyo and 18 other prefectures at the end of September. It is considering further raising the spectator cap if the situation allows by accepting proof of being fully vaccinated or a negative test certificate in the upcoming experiment.
“No one can predict how the infection situation will change, so I explained what kind of mitigation can be taken in accordance with the situation,” Ihara said following the meeting with the minister.
In a related development, the government plans to carry out a series of tests starting in October at restaurants, live music venues and other places that typically attract large crowds in preparation for the relaxation of restrictions.
Japanese pharmaceutical firm Shionogi says it has begun a new phase in a clinical trial for an orally administered coronavirus treatment.
The Osaka-based company started first-phase tests in July this year. The firm says it found no safety problems at that stage.
In the next round of tests that started on Monday, the company is checking the drug’s efficacy and safety by administering it once a day for five days to COVID-19 patients with mild or no symptoms.
The tests will target hospitalized patients and those who are recovering at accommodation facilities. Shionogi has not disclosed the scale and duration of the trial, but it aims to be ready by the end of this year to produce the drug for one million people.
Japan’s health ministry on Monday approved sotrovimab, made by the British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, for non-severe coronavirus cases, following an earlier approval of an antibody cocktail treatment. Neither are administered orally.
The government will agree to Princess Mako’s request that she does not receive a lump sum amount that is usually given to female members of the Japanese imperial family upon their departure from the royal household, sources close to the matter said Saturday.
Amid controversy about a money dispute involving her boyfriend’s mother, the 29-year-old princess, a niece of Emperor Naruhito, has expressed her intent to decline the up to 150 million yen payment, the sources said.
Princess Mako and her boyfriend Komuro Kei are preparing to register their marriage next month. Komuro, 29, has returned to Japan from the United States for the first time in more than three years, having arrived at Narita Airport on Monday 28 September. He traveled to Japan from New York, where he has been living since August 2018 to study law and become a lawyer in the state.
The couple will likely hold a news conference after they submit the registration of their marriage. Sources say that they plan to start their new life together in the United States. Under law, female imperial family members lose their royal status upon marrying a commoner.
If the money is not gifted to Princess Mako, it will be the first time in Japan’s postwar history that such a payment has not been made.
The wedding of the two has been put off for about three years following a string of reports about a dispute Komuro’s mother was in with her former fiance over 4 million yen in monetary support, including money spent on Komuro’s education.
The prospect of a new prime minister has sent Japan’s stock market to its highest level since 1990 as investors hope stronger leadership and fresh policies will spark change in the world’s third-largest economy, Nikkei reports.
The four candidates to succeed Suga Yoshihide as leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party face off in a poll of party members and members of parliament on Wednesday 29 September. If no one wins a majority of ballots, the top two candidates will then head into a runoff, with the victor set to become prime minister ahead of a general election due before late November.
Promises of a large fiscal package to boost the pandemic-hit economy have fueled the equity rally, and the candidates share other common policies including going carbon neutral and accelerating digital transformation in areas like education and health care, as well as easing domestic restrictions as the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines progresses.
But there are also sharp distinctions between the candidates, meaning different sectors may emerge as stock market winners depending on the outcome.
Kono Taro is the 58-year-old social media savvy administrative reform minister and minister in charge of vaccinations, whose election would mark a generational shift and a liberal turn for the LDP. According to a poll on 18 September by Kyodo News, Kono leads the race with the support of 48.6% of the LDP’s rank-and-file members, although lawmakers’ votes suggest the election will be close.
He has advocated for a shift away from nuclear power and said a new stimulus package should prioritize spending on renewable energy. He has also vowed to include support for a nationwide expansion of 5G networks.
Kubota Tomoichiro, a senior market analyst at Matsui Securities, said investors have already reacted by buying shares of West Holdings, a solar energy company. Its stock price is up 14% this month. Similar companies like Renova, operator of solar and biomass power plants, and Erex, a biomass power plant operator, have also seen their shares jump over 20% in the same period.
Marcel Thieliant, a senior Japan economist at Capital Economics in Singapore, cautioned that a target of carbon neutrality by 2050 is already Japanese policy, introduced by Suga. “Kono would have to back [the target] up with actual spending,” Thieliant said.
Update on the Netherlands
Saturday 25 September marked the day of some changes that were announced earlier regarding the corona measures the 1.5 meter rule is being released and the home work advice is also relaxing. On the other hand, a corona ticket (CTB) is required for most catering and events.
Everyone aged 13 and over must now show a corona pass in all catering establishments, except in takeaway restaurants. Last week, the Chamber also enforced that such a QR code is not necessary on terraces. Visitors to terraces must show a CTB if they want to go to the toilet inside.
The corona pass must also be shown at events, festivals, concerts and professional sports competitions. This also applies to art and culture institutions, such as cinemas and theatres.
The CTB serves as proof that people have been vaccinated, recently tested negative or have recovered from Covid-19. People without a corona pass can have themselves tested for free for a QR code with which they can gain access. Municipalities have received extra money from the government for this.
Catering owners and organizers of events and sports and cultural activities must check the corona pass together with the proof of identity. The CoronaCheck Scanner app is made available for this.
The maximum number of visitors and the mandatory closing time will be abolished for outdoor events and for indoor events with a fixed seat. Supporters in (football) stadiums can enter with unlimited numbers, if they can show a corona pass.
At indoor events without a fixed seat, such as a concert, a maximum of 75% of regular visitors may enter. There is a mandatory closing time at 24:00.
Multi-day events are also allowed again, provided that visitors show their corona pass every 24 hours. The catering industry can start running again at maximum capacity and the seat obligation also expires. The closing period between 00:00 and 06:00 will remain.
Discos and clubs are also allowed to open again, but until a maximum of 24:00. The cabinet is working on support measures for night catering and unplaced events with a capacity limitation.
In secondary schools, MBOs and in higher education, face masks are no longer mandatory when moving within the building. In primary schools, the quarantine obligation for entire classes also expires when one student tests positive for the corona virus. Only the infected student and possibly the close contacts of that person cannot receive physical education.
Work from home advice has also been relaxed. The new slogan will be: “Work from home when possible, at work when necessary”. Before, that was: “Work from home, unless there is no other option.”
Outgoing minister De Jonge also wants to see whether a change in the law can be implemented, with which the corona access pass can be used in healthcare. De Jonge does not want to oblige healthcare institutions to use the pass.
He thinks the corona admission ticket could also be a practical tool in other sectors. Together with the trade unions and employers, he wants to see whether that is an option.
It is not yet clear how long the corona tickets will be used. The cabinet wants to make a new decision around 1 November.
The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport is not taking any extra measures to prevent new problems with the CoronaCheck app, a spokesperson told NU.nl. That app turned out to be no match for large crowds and DDoS attacks on Saturday evening, despite the ministry having already arranged extra server capacity.
The CoronaCheck app, which has served as an entrance ticket to restaurants, cinemas and events since Saturday, was immediately overloaded on Saturday evening. That led to many people not being able to load their QR code. As a result, they did not have a ticket and queues formed in some places.
According to the ministry, the problems arose because of the large crowds and because the app was attacked by cyber criminals. In a ddos attack, an attempt is made to make a website, server or service inaccessible. A computer system is visited so massively through a network of hacked devices that it crashes.
A ministry spokesman said no additional measures are being taken to prevent these attacks in the future. According to him, the app is already connected to a so-called ddos car wash. That is a system that separates the ddos traffic and the legitimate traffic, after which only the clean traffic is allowed through.
“This system also worked on Saturday, because the attacks were repulsed. However, this required extra capacity from the server. Because many people also requested a QR code at the same time, the server was overloaded. We do not expect new problems to arise,” said the spokesman.
This is mainly because it is expected that the crowds will decrease in the coming weeks. “It was the first weekend that the QR codes were needed, which is why many people picked them up for the first time. The codes will be valid for the next 28 days, after which they are automatically refreshed.”
Employees of academic hospitals will strike again on Tuesday, October 26, a spokesperson for FNV Zorg told NU.nl.
This means that all planable care is canceled and only emergency care is available. According to the spokesperson, the employers’ association NFU has not yet responded to the wage demands and the demand for less work pressure from the union. “And as long as they don’t respond to it, we will continue to campaign.”
On Tuesday, healthcare workers from seven academic hospitals went on strike. According to the health care union, this involves thousands of employees and the largest strike by employees of university medical centers ever.
The strikers are demanding wage increases and measures against the high workload, among other things. In a number of departments in seven university hospitals, only Sunday services were run. It is not yet clear how many employees will participate next month.
Catering companies in Breda and Alkmaar checked visitors for a corona ticket in a different way last weekend. In both cities, interested parties could pick up a wristband or stamp at a central checkpoint with a valid QR code and use it to enter the pubs. According to the cities, this leads to a simpler control process. More cities seem to want to follow suit.
In theaters, cinemas, concert halls and the catering industry, the corona ticket has been mandatory since Saturday if you want to enter. But catering entrepreneurs do not always feel like being the checkpoint themselves, says a spokesperson for Koninklijke Horeca Nederland (KHN).
“With the introduction of the corona admission ticket, catering entrepreneurs are unsolicited at the center of a social discussion with all its consequences, such as threats and extra personnel costs.”
The checkpoints are bundled at various places in the Netherlands. There are four ‘catering checkpoints’ in Breda, writes BN de Stem. On the busier Fridays and Saturdays, catering establishments can pick up a wristband here on presentation of a QR code, with which they can go from pub to pub. The catering industry still has to check the wristbands, but this is easier than with a QR code.
In Alkmaar there is one central checkpoint in the Waag building. There, a valid QR code is worth a waterproof stamp or a band, which is easier and faster for entrepreneurs to check than the codes, NH Nieuws reports. There is also a rapid test site at the same location, so those without vaccination or proof of recovery can get a valid QR code within 15 minutes.
“We see that entrepreneurs are dealing with the measure practically and pragmatically,” according to the KHN. “The concerns among entrepreneurs are now mainly related to the limitation of the closing time and the discontinuation of the support.”
The approach of Breda and Alkmaar has been noticed by other cities. For example, catering establishments in Eindhoven have asked local politicians to adopt the policy, writes the Eindhovens Dagblad. There are also local groups in Den Bosch for the use of wristbands.
Outgoing minister Ferd Grapperhaus (Justice and Security) will discuss the past weekend with the mayors on Tuesday. Then, for example, the Breda approach will also be discussed.
The counter for the number of foreign tourists is expected to stop at 5.4 million this year. That is more than a quarter less than during the corona year 2020 and 73% less than in 2019, the Netherlands Bureau for Tourism & Congresses (NBTC) warned on Monday.
The fact that the Dutch went on holiday more often in their own country will not compensate for the loss of income, according to the NBTC. A full recovery is not expected until 2024.
“The expected annual figures paint a more dramatic picture than we had earlier this year,” says Jos Vranken, general director of the NBTC. “This is due to the ongoing travel restrictions and restrictive measures that have been in place almost all year.” According to Vranken, tourist and business visits in the Netherlands will fall this year to the level of the early 1990s.
That means another significant loss of income from tourism spending, the NBTC expects. In 2020, the sector earned 14.5 billion euros from international tourists and visitors, compared to 34.7 billion euros in 2019. Day-trippers and domestic tourists generated 32.1 billion euros in revenue during the corona year, compared to 466 billion euros in 2019.
The number of Dutch people who went on holiday in their own country this year is expected to be 26 million. That means a plus of almost 30% compared to a year earlier. “One explanation for this is a popular May holiday in which many Dutch people went out in their own country. In addition, more Dutch people booked a summer holiday in their own country due to the strict travel restrictions that were announced again in mid-July,” said Vranken.
The NBTC is aiming for a larger number of international visitors next year, but because domestic tourism will probably remain at the same level in 2022 as in 2021, a full recovery of the sector will take until 2024. According to Vranken, especially the conferences and other gatherings bounce back more slowly from the corona blow than overnight tourism. “Sustainable recovery and development cannot be taken for granted,” he finally warns.
Supermarket chain Jumbo will open two hundred new so-called ‘chat cash registers’ next year to combat loneliness. These are cash registers for people who are not in a hurry and “would like to have a chat” at the checkout, according to the supermarket chain.
There is already a chat box in Vlijmen in Brabant. The next one will also be in Brabant, in Udenhout. The idea for the chat box arose two years ago. The first was opened in the summer of 2019. According to Jumbo, that was a great success and now “the time is right” to further expand the concept. Jumbo also looks at areas where loneliness is common.
Jumbo is a member of the National Coalition against Loneliness, an initiative of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS) to combat loneliness.
Loneliness has worsened during the corona pandemic, reported the Luisterlijn, among others. The telephone helpline had a record number of conversations with people who were worried about something last year. This was mainly due to the lockdowns, which made people feel more depressed.
Researchers from Maastricht University previously calculated that severe loneliness costs society 2 billion euros in extra care. According to the university, one in ten Dutch people feel seriously or very lonely and as many as four out of ten Dutch people experience some degree of loneliness.
Albert Heijn says that the supermarkets of the chain “often play an important social role in the neighbourhood”. Customers can also drink free coffee in the shops. “As a result, we have been a place in many neighborhoods for years where everyone who needs a chat can meet,” said a spokesperson.
The umbrella organization of supermarkets Central Bureau for Food Trade (CBL) says that the increase in self-scanning checkouts means less crowds at regular checkouts. “That gives room for a chat,” said a spokeswoman.
Actor Leonardo DiCaprio is investing in the Dutch company Mosa Meat, which has developed technology to grow meat as an alternative to slaughtering animals. The American sees cultured meat as a solution to climate change, because it leads to far fewer greenhouse gas emissions than rearing animals. DiCaprio is also an investor in Aleph Farms, an Israeli company which is also working on cultured meat.
The two companies did not disclose how much capital the Oscar winner is putting in to Mosa Meat and Aleph Farms. DiCaprio has long championed the fight against climate change. Keeping and slaughtering cows, pigs and other animals for meat is a major source of greenhouse gases. By changing that, climate gains can be made, the actor predicted.
“One of the most impactful ways to fight the climate crisis is by transforming our food system. Mosa Meat offers a new way to meet the global demand for beef while solving some of the most pressing problems of today’s industrial beef production,” said DiCaprio, who is now 46 years old.
Founded in 2016, Mosa Meat is a spin-off from Maastricht University. The company produces beef by growing cells from a cow in a natural way. The founders, Mark Post and Peter Verstrate, want to make the same beef that is on the plate every day, but in a cleaner and environmentally friendly way that is better for humans and animals.
Mark Post made headlines in 2013 with the presentation of the world’s first cultured hamburger. It cost 250,000 euros to make at the time. The goal now is to make cultured burgers affordable for consumers.
Maarten Bosch, CEO of Mosa Meat: “Leonardo DiCaprio’s work to drive positive change is closely aligned with our mission. His role is mainly to help put cultivated meat on the map for a wide audience.”
Mosa Meat has raised approximately 82 million euros in capital in various investment rounds. Other well-known investors include Jitse Groen, CEO of meal delivery company Just Eat Takeaway, and Nutreco, the producer of fish and cattle feed.
Update on Dujat & Members
On Thursday 14 October, Dujat will visit the region of Brabant again, where we we organize the event `Japan & The Netherlands: World Leaders in Smart Maintenance, a symposium about aerospace, industry and infrastructure`, in collaboration with Brabant Development Agency (BOM).
The event will take place at Gate2 which is part of Aeroparc Gilze-Rijen in Brabant. As usual, Dujat will arrange bus transport for participants from Amsterdam-Amstelveen area to the venue, and back. Of course it is also possible to go by own transport. For more information, please refer to the invitation (sent yesterday) or our website. If you missed the invitation and would like to register, please contact our office.
Together with the Port of Rotterdam and Rotterdam Partners, we welcome you to Rotterdam for a special visit focused on Energy Transition and Urban Future, on Tuesday 19 October.
During this day you will be learning more about the latest developments in Rotterdam. We will focus on Urban development in the City of Rotterdam and how harbour area is being transformed into residential area’s. Discover new opportunities, new companies and meet new business friends in Rotterdam.
The event starts at RDM Rotterdam which is the hotspot for innovation in the Rotterdam port area. After a presentation about the latest developments in Rotterdam and a tour around various facilities at the venue, we will transfer by watertaxi to the Kop van Zuid.
There we will hear a presentation about the Floating Office Rotterdam (FOR), which officially opened this year. The presentation will focus on Rijnhaven Developments (port area reclaimed by the city) and future outlook.
After a tour at the location, we will then return to RDM by watertaxi where will conclude the event with a networking reception. It is our honor to announce that H.E. Mr. Horinouchi, Ambassador of Japan will join us during this event as our guest of honor.
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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