Biweekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 41 & 42, 2021
This newsletter was shared with Dujat members on 12-10-2021. The next newsletter was sent out today.
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Update on Japan
On Thursday 30 September, as was scheduled, the Japanese government ended the state of emergency for Tokyo, Osaka and 17 other prefectures, and lifted the intensive anti-virus measures that covered another eight prefectures.
The emergency status was in place in Tokyo for about two-and-a-half months, and in Okinawa for four months. It marks the first time since April that Japan is free of coronavirus declarations and intensive measures.
The government aims to strike a balance between infection prevention and the continuation of daily life. It is easing restrictions in phases for some social settings, including dining establishments and event venues, and at the same time supporting the medical system and vaccination rollout to ensure people can receive necessary care if infections resurge.
Unvaccinated people are encouraged to get tested before traveling to other prefectures. Free PCR tests are being offered on an ongoing basis to domestic passengers flying to Okinawa, a popular tourist destination.
Cases are declining across the nation, and the number of seriously ill people has dropped to less than half the peak levels. Hospital bed occupancy rates are below 50% in all areas, and the strain on the healthcare system has notably eased.
The central government put guidelines in place as part of a phased approach to lifting restrictions on everyday life. For example for restaurants in Tokyo, only certified dining establishments are permitted to serve alcohol, with last drinks by 8 p.m. and closing time one hour later. Four people is the maximum size for group dining.
For about a month, events will be permitted if spectators are capped at 50% of capacity, or 5,000 people, whichever is smaller. For large-scale facilities, spectators are capped at 50% of capacity, or 10,000 people, whichever is smaller.
More detailed information can be found on individual prefectural government websites. Regarding travel to Japan from the Netherlands, this is still not possible and we are awaiting further notice.
More than 64% of the population in Japan has been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The government said on Monday 11 October that over 93.1 million people, or 73.6% of the population, have received their first shots, and that more than 81.4 million people, or 64.3%, have had two shots. Among people aged 65 or older, 90.9% have had at least one jab, with 89.8% receiving the second dose.
The government plans to finish vaccination for all those who wish to be inoculated this month or early next month. The health ministry also said Friday that it has signed a contract with U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc to receive an additional 120 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine starting in January.
Goto Shigeyuki, the new minister of health, labor and welfare, said at a press conference after the cabinet meeting that “we will work toward the smooth provision of vaccines.” The contract was signed on Thursday.
The government has already signed contracts to import an additional 50 million doses of U.S. biotechnology firm Moderna Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine next year and 150 million vaccine doses of U.S. pharmaceutical giant Novavax Inc with Takeda Pharmaceutical Co, which will handle the vaccine distribution in Japan.
The country decided in September to start administering third shots of coronavirus vaccines by the end of this year to increase protection. The health ministry is considering who will be eligible for the third shots and the newly contracted Pfizer vaccine is also expected to be used.
According to the ministry, Pfizer’s Japanese subsidiary has submitted an application to change part of the approved content to allow for the third shots.
Kishida Fumio was elected Japan’s 100th prime minister in a Diet vote on Monday 4 October and will be tasked with quickly tackling the pandemic and other domestic and global challenges and leading a national election within weeks.
With his party and its coalition partner holding a majority in both houses, Kishida garnered 311 votes in the 465-seat lower house, winning by a comfortable margin against Edano Yukio, head of the largest opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.
He replaces Suga Yoshihide, who resigned after only one year in office as his support plunged over his government’s handling of the pandemic and insistence on holding the Tokyo Olympics as the virus spread.
In his first policy speech on Friday 8 October he stressed his determination to promote a “new form of capitalism” in which more economic expansion will be achieved by distributing the fruits of growth.
Kishida delivered his first policy speech to both houses of the Diet, four days after taking office. He said he will take advantage of the recent decline in the number of new coronavirus infections to work to ensure that the public enjoy a sense of security. He said he aims to authorize the use of oral COVID-19 medicine by year-end, and to seek the use of digital vaccine certificates.
On the economy, Kishida said neoliberal policies have been criticized for widening the division between haves and have-nots. He said further expansion can be achieved by distributing the fruits of growth. He stressed that he will bring a new style of capitalism to the fore, one that is based on a virtuous cycle of growth and distribution, along with new solutions for the post-pandemic age.
The prime minister said he will safeguard universal values such as freedom, democracy and respect for human rights, and do his best to promote a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific.” He said his government will revise the national security strategy and other policies, strengthening the country’s maritime security and missile defense capabilities. He said he will also tackle economic security.
Kishida said he will aim for a world without nuclear arms as a prime minister hailing from Hiroshima — the site of an atomic bomb attack during World War Two. He said he will carry forward “the torch of nuclear disarmament — a challenge that the world’s great leaders have repeatedly tried to tackle” and do all he can do to eliminate nuclear arms. He said he intends to lead the international community in dealing with global issues, including nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and climate change.
Kishida expressed a readiness to engage with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un without pre-set conditions with the aim of securing the return of Japanese nationals abducted by the North, and that building a stable bilateral relationship with China is important for both countries and the world.
Kishida said there will be no peace treaty with Russia without a resolution of the issue of four Russian-controlled islands claimed by Japan. He said he will aim to develop ties between the two countries by establishing a relationship of mutual trust with President Vladimir Putin. The prime minister described South Korea as an important neighbor. He said he will strongly urge the country to act in such a way as to encourage the restoration of healthy bilateral ties.
Although the calendar says October, western Japan and elsewhere continue to swelter with record daily highs and average temperatures far exceeding that in a normal year for the first 10 days of the month.
However, relief is in sight. The summer-like temperatures will likely drop from the end of this week as cool, dry winds are expected to blow from the continental side and bring autumn weather to the country, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.
In central Tokyo, eight of the first 10 days in October saw the daily maximum temperature range from 25 degrees to 29.9 degrees. On 11 October, the mercury rose to 29.3 degrees. In comparison, there were only three days from 1 to 11 October in 2020 that saw the mercury reach that range.
As of 4 p.m. on 11 October this year, 120 locations across Japan reported the temperature hitting 30 degrees or up to 34.9 degrees, setting records for October.
An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.9 jolted the Tokyo region late Thursday 7 October, injuring nearly 20 people, with commuters left stranded and water supplies cut in some areas.
The quake occurred at 10:41 p.m., logging upper 5 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale of 7 in parts of Tokyo and Saitama Prefecture, with the focus of the quake in northwestern Chiba Prefecture at a depth of about 75 kilometers, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.
The last time a quake measuring upper 5 or more was registered in Tokyo’s 23 wards was on 11 March, 2011, when a magnitude-9.0 quake devastated northeastern Japan and triggered a tsunami, the agency said. The agency initially said the magnitude of the quake was 6.1 but revised it down early Friday.
The agency warned that a quake of a similar intensity could occur within the week, with an official saying there was a 10 to 20% chance based on previous temblors.
Prime Minister Kishida, whose government immediately set up a task force to respond to the quake, entered his office at around 11:20 p.m. He told reporters he had ordered officials to help quake victims and prevent further damage.
Nearly 20 people were injured, including a female passenger who fell and hit her head when a train came to a sudden halt, according to police and firefighters. There were many reports of burst pipes and water supply cuts in Tokyo, officials said.
Japan’s top spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno Hirokazu, said at a press conference that there were no abnormalities reported at nuclear facilities.
The quake triggered a blackout affecting about 250 households in the Japanese capital around 11 p.m. but power was eventually restored. Railway companies said most subway services operated by Tokyo Metro Co. and some bullet train lines had resumed operation following the temblor.
There were also no reports of damage at Narita airport, east of Tokyo, while transport authorities said runways at Tokyo’s Haneda airport had been reopened after checks.
Update on the Netherlands
The number of corona infections in the Netherlands has risen by 48% in the past week, RIVM reported on Tuesday 12 October. This concerns 17,832 new positive tests in a week, compared to 12,016 a week earlier.
The number of tests taken also rose, but the number of positive tests rose faster. This indicates that the virus is likely to spread more widely.
“The expected fall increase of the coronavirus seems to have started”, the RIVM concludes. More corona is also found in the sewer measurement and in the Infection Radar, where people fill in how they feel, more people with corona complaints are measured.
Despite the high vaccination coverage, the number of new hospital admissions is also increasing: 335 patients were admitted outside the IC last week, the National Coordination Center for Patients Spreading reports. A week earlier, there were 282, an increase of 19%. The number of admissions on the IC remained more or less the same, namely 66 against 65 a week earlier.
Working with the corona pass will still be necessary in the winter in the catering industry and at events. Early November comes too early to stop using the QR code, sources expect. But if the numbers fall sharply, the corona proof may be required in fewer places.
On 8 October, the OMT discussed the epidemiological state of affairs, and they will do so again at the end of October. At the beginning of November, the cabinet will then decide on possible relaxation and the future of the corona proof. The 1.5 meter rule has been released for two weeks, instead you have to show a QR code in many places to enter (vaccination proof, negative test or proof of healing from COVID-19).
Outgoing Health Minister Hugo de Jonge (CDA) said it is too early to predict what they can do at the beginning of November. They saw a decline for a while, then stabilization. But they are also seeing the first signs that the spread of the virus is stronger again.
It is now more important to look at hospital admissions than infections. Due to the high vaccination coverage and effective protection, an infection leads much less often to hospitalization.
Only when there are stable fewer than ten extra IC admissions per day – and less than forty new corona patients in the regular hospital departments – will the abolition of the corona certificates come into view. The trend is declining, so that’s encouraging.
But it is still unclear exactly what consequences the release of the 1.5 meter rule two weeks ago will have on infection rates and hospital admissions. That will become clear next week, experts think.
The beginning of November will probably come too early for the deletion of the corona pass, sources expect. With an average of approximately 1900 new infections every day and a total of 469 corona patients in hospital, there is too little buffer to work without an admission ticket, an insider thinks. “A part is still locked, in the night catering industry and at events that cannot run at maximum capacity. If you want to make that possible, you will have to continue working with the corona pass, is the expectation.”
However, a light version of the corona pass can be considered, says De Jonge. Now a QR-code must also be displayed at every cafe and football canteen, the question is whether that will remain necessary. “If numbers remain low, you can deal with the corona pass in fewer places, or in a different way. But you can’t say that yet.”
Virologist Marion Koopmans was recently also cautious about the possibilities in November to get rid of all restrictions. “That is possible if everything falls and the vaccination rate rises. It is a choice: let go of everything, and then intervene if it unexpectedly increases. Because in all scenario models of the RIVM there is an increase in the number of hospital admissions due to corona in the winter. The exact size is really difficult to estimate.”
Unlike Denmark – where corona proofs have ended again – the Netherlands has a lower vaccination rate and a higher IC occupancy, so there is less margin. De Jonge says about this: “They have a vaccination rate of well over 90% in the elderly. I also want to get rid of all measures. But the fastest way to get rid of that is a higher vaccination rate.”
The Dutch cabinet wants to do something about the rising energy prices with ‘targeted measures’. After consultation with the most involved ministers, outgoing minister Blok said that the cabinet takes the problem very seriously and that people can receive “really very hefty bills”. Due to rising gas prices, the energy bill threatens to rise by tens of euros per month in the coming winter.
Blok said the options will be worked out in the near future to help both households and businesses and at least absorb some of the price increases. The measures must mainly reach people who really need them.
But the outgoing minister emphasized that the interventions must be feasible and that this is complex, because there is no direct link between the level of income and the level of the energy bill. “You want to reach people who matter most. But you can have low-income people living in well-insulated houses or middle-income people who happen to live in poorly insulated houses.”
The ministries most involved have formed a crisis team. A long list of possibilities has already been devised. For example, it is being examined whether citizens and companies can be compensated through income or energy tax. A temporary reduction in VAT is also being considered.
Blok emphasized that this involves large amounts. On Budget Day, the cabinet has already earmarked extra money for insulation, and an extra ‘impulse’ may be added to this. According to the minister, this can be done by increasing amounts, but also by ensuring that isolations can be carried out more quickly.
The cabinet may announce on Friday what measures it will take. But Blok said it could also be a little later.
For upcoming New Year’s celebration and the years after, it will be prohibited to light fireworks in Amsterdam. The municipality reported on Friday that it will instead come with an official New Year’s celebration at Museumplein and several professional fireworks shows.
The city council has already decided that the lighting of fireworks in the city will be banned. To make the ban possible, the General Local Regulation (APV) has now been amended.
The municipality of Amsterdam announces that it will institute the fireworks ban because “New Year’s Eve in Amsterdam should become a party where the city celebrates the start of a new year together, without the nuisance and incidents caused by fireworks”.
Instead, the Museumplein becomes the center of the New Year’s Eve, where in addition to a fireworks show, there are also performances. In addition, the municipality wants to organize a professional fireworks show in every district this year. The form in which the events can continue this year remains dependent on the corona measures, the municipality emphasizes.
It is still possible to buy consumer fireworks in the city, but that is no longer allowed to be used. The municipality says it will point out this to the residents of Amsterdam in the coming period with an information campaign.
There is also a complete ban in Rotterdam and Nijmegen. Other large cities seem to be committed to a future fireworks ban as well, while in The Hague and Breda it is still allowed to light fireworks.
The police issue an average of 850 fines per week to cyclists who were using a telephone while cycling. According to figures announced by the Central Judicial Collection Agency at the request of NU.nl .
Since July 2019 it is forbidden to hold a phone while cycling. At the time, ticketed cyclists had to pay a fine of 95 euros, now that is 100 euros. The ban was introduced to make traffic safer.
Whether traffic has indeed become safer after the introduction of a ban is not clear from the figures, because detailed registration of bicycle accidents is lacking. The figures for the past two years show that the police handed out more fines in the summer than in the winter. There may be a seasonal effect; after all, in the cold and rain it is less attractive to operate a telephone screen while cycling.
The police say that there is no specific check for smartphone use on the bicycle, but that the cyclist will be addressed if a police officer sees it. This can lead to a warning or a fine.
Update on Dujat & Members
Last week we sent out the important announcement that only a few seats were left for this year’s Dujat December Dinner at Hotel Okura Amsterdam.
Soon after, the last few seats were reserved, which is why we herewith announce that the Dujat December Dinner is officially sold out.
We look forward to welcoming you all and do our utmost to make it a wonderful experience on 13 December.
Together with the Port of Rotterdam and Rotterdam Partners, we will organize an event in Rotterdam focused on Energy Transition and Urban Future, next week on Tuesday 19 October.
During the event 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. We look forward to welcoming you!
After two consecutive years of postponement due to the global spread of the new coronavirus, the Japan Festival 2022, organized by JCC and the Japan Festival Foundation, will now take place on Sunday 19 June 2022, for the first time in almost two years and nine months.
The theme of the festival is “Reconnect for tomorrow”. Through this festival they want to share with you the joy of being connected again and to keep the ties between Japan and the Netherlands alive for the future. The festival is not only for Japanese people living in the Netherlands, but also for locals and non-Dutch people, with a varied programme of Japanese food and culture, workshops and stage performances that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike.
The Japan Festival is supported by corporate sponsors, and Dujat will be one of the contributors. For more information about the Foundation, please see the website: https://www.japanfestival.nl/
Besides the deals offered in each sponsorship package, a small sponsor reception will be also planned in the evening of January 31, 2022 at the Hotel Okura Amsterdam. To learn more about sponsorship possibilities, please contact JCC. The deadline for applications is set on Friday 1 April 2022.
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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