Biweekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 49 & 50, 2021
This newsletter was shared with Dujat members on 21-12-2021. The next newsletter was sent out today.
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Update on Japan
On Saturday 18 December, Prime Minister Kishida Fumio said Japan will extend its tight entry rules until at least early next year to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
The government initially said the rules, banning new entries by foreigners worldwide and requiring returning Japanese nationals and foreign residents to quarantine in government-designated facilities, would be in place for about a month to year-end.
Kishida told reporters that the government will continue with the rules until more details of the Omicron variant are known. “We will study the situation after the year-end and New Year (holiday).”
On Friday, Kishida announced the plan to expedite third doses of coronavirus vaccines by shortening the current eight-month interval between the second jab and a booster, for about 31 million people after obtaining the opinion of experts.
The government will be shortening the interval for healthcare personnel and seniors in care homes, who are at high risk of serious illness, to six months. In addition, it plans to shorten the interval for other seniors to seven months starting next February.
Kishida also said the government will begin the supply of oral drugs, which have been described as effective against the Omicron variant, by the end of the year.
He said the government has already secured 1.6 million doses of the oral drug, Molnupiravir, developed by Merck. Kishida also said he and Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla agreed in principle during a phone conference earlier in the day to secure 2 million doses of the company’s oral drug. He said the government will continue to negotiate to finalize the deal, including on the timing of delivery.
The Japanese government launched on Monday 20 December a smartphone app that allows people to display proof of vaccination that can be used for multiple purposes, including immigration procedures.
The app, called the COVID-19 Vaccination Certificate Application and available for both iPhone and Android smartphones, displays information such as the number of doses a user has received, the dates of inoculation and the vaccine manufacturer, according to the Digital Agency.
Municipal governments have been issuing vaccine certificates in paper form since the summer, but the app makes it easier for people to obtain certification through the My Number national identification system so long as they have been issued a My Number card, an agency official said. While all citizens and residents of Japan are issued 12-digit ID numbers, cards need to be applied for separately.
By scanning their My Number cards with a smartphone, people can pull up information on the app regarding their inoculation status from the Vaccination Record System, a cloud system created by the government and used by municipalities to manage data on residents’ inoculation status.
For use in international travel, users need to additionally input passport data. Instructions on the app are provided only in Japanese language.
In addition to using the digital certificates for quarantine inspections in destination countries, the agency is also considering domestic use in a program designed to loosen COVID-related restrictions on the vaccinated. The app is “expected to be used for lowering infection risks in daily lives as well as economic and social activities,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno Hirokazu told a press conference Monday.
The government in November outlined a “vaccine and test package” aimed at easing restrictions for people with proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 tests even when the country is under a virus state of emergency.
Under the plan, venues of large-scale events will be able to accommodate a full crowd, while there will be no limits to the number of people at restaurants even under an emergency so long as people have either been vaccinated or tested negative for COVID.
People who live in municipalities that do not give consent to the use of data in the VRS system are not eligible for the digital certificate service. The list of municipalities whose residents are eligible for the service is available on the Digital Agency website. However, the agency has warned that some registered vaccination data may be incorrect and called on users to seek any necessary corrections at their municipalities.
About 78% of the Japanese population has received at least two doses of COVID-19 vaccines. The government began administering booster shots to health care workers earlier this month amid increasing concern about the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
Japanese drugmaker Shionogi said Monday that preliminary laboratory studies suggest its COVID-19 tablet inhibits the severity of infections from the highly transmissible omicron variant, providing optimism that the low-cost treatment may help prevent a surge in hospitalizations.
The antiviral pill for people at the early stage of infection is designed to prevent severe illness and reduce symptoms such as fever and cough. The tablet blocks the function of an enzyme called a protease, slowing the spread of the virus.
Shionogi’s preliminary data “confirmed that S-217622, an oral antiviral drug that selectively inhibits 3CL protease, exhibits high antiviral activity against the omicron variant” as it does with other strains, the company said in a statement.
Clinical trials with asymptomatic or mildly ill people began in late September and are in the final phase. The company plans to apply for Japanese approval this month. The data comes from lab studies using omicron samples Shionogi received from Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases this month.
Shionogi is also developing a COVID-19 vaccine and building a system to test it against the omicron variant. In the event existing vaccines lose efficacy, the company has also finished the antigen design of the vaccine against the omicron.
Shionogi’s news follows Pfizer’s application for U.S. authorization of Paxlovid, a therapy consisting of two types of pills for those with mild to moderate symptoms. On 14 December, the U.S. company reported an initial analysis indicating that one type, nirmatrelvir, “potently inhibited the 3CL protease associated with omicron” in lab studies. Pfizer has agreed to supply Japan with 2 million doses of the antiviral treatment.
Merck’s pill, molnupiravir, won U.K. approval in November, and an application for Japanese authorization covering manufacturing and sales was filed 3 December. The medication is expected to be effective regardless of mutations and likely would work against omicron, said a spokesperson at MSD, the Japanese arm of the U.S. drugmaker.
Japan looks to require that companies in key infrastructure sectors such as finance, telecom and transport have plans for coping with cyberattacks, in response to a rise in such incidents globally.
The government will urge corporate managers to take the lead in making organizational changes and devising these plans, in addition to ensuring that equipment is secure. Tokyo will spell out these steps by April as it makes the first full revision of the country’s key infrastructure action plan since 2017. The new rules, which focus on economic security, will take effect in fiscal 2022.
Japan notes the growing concerns in the U.S. and Europe that financial systems and others that support the public’s livelihood could be crippled if corporate cyber defenses fail. In May, the largest American operator of oil pipelines was forced to suspend operations following an attack.
Countries worldwide are scrambling to bolster defenses, viewing an all-hands-on-deck approach as necessary to deal with increasingly sophisticated attacks.
Japan regards roughly 1,700 financial institutions as key infrastructure, according to official data as of the end of fiscal 2020. About 1,300 telecommunications operators, 22 railways and 29 utilities also would be covered by the new rules. The other sectors are airlines, airport operators, gas providers, government services, medical institutions, waterworks, logistics, chemicals, credit and oil.
Japan’s cybersecurity plan previously has been part of government guidelines, but not legally binding. The anticipated revision will make the plan more effective, as measures would be clearly based on cybersecurity laws.
No penalties are involved, but the supervising ministry or the National Center of Incident Readiness and Strategy for Cybersecurity will conduct regular inspections and seek improvements as needed. Businesses may be asked to conduct an internal inspection based on the Companies Act.
The new rules are expected to state that companies must clarify accountability for their cybersecurity plans, have the capability to deal with threats at any time and create an organizational structure for handling emergencies. Management will be urged to take part without consigning all the work to a specialized department.
Tokyo also wants companies to deal with supply chain risks, such as information leaks via telecom equipment and cloud computing systems. Businesses will be asked to strengthen risk management, including at affiliates and suppliers. The government is believed to have in mind Chinese products, such as equipment made by Huawei Technologies.
Separately, the government is considering conducting screenings before companies introduce new equipment, as part of economic security legislation to be submitted to the Diet next year. With the rule changes, Japan intends to have companies take steps such as inspecting equipment on their own before the new law goes into effect.
Cyberattacks in Japan grew more than eightfold from 2015 to 2020, according to the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology. Government-backed entities and defense contractors such as Mitsubishi Electric and NEC have been targeted. The government touched on involvement by China, Russia and North Korea in its cybersecurity strategy decided in September.
Earlier this year, the U.S. devised a plan to improve cybersecurity at key infrastructure companies such as utilities. It is poised to call for the introduction of new defense systems by the government and private sector together using new technologies.
Update on the Netherlands
People born in 1962 can now schedule an appointment with the GGDMunicipal health service for a corona booster vaccination. This is only possible online, via www.coronavaccinatie-afspraak.nl. The booster shot can be obtained from 3 months after the last vaccination or from 3 months after recovery from corona.
The GGDMunicipal health service calls for scheduling appointments online to avoid overloading the call center. Partner injections are no longer scheduled either. Due to the hundreds of thousands of calls per day, the call center is under extreme pressure. The national telephone network must also be prevented from getting into trouble.
Help each other make an online appointment. Those who need help can also use the explanation video or the step-by-step guides. These can be found on the website of the central government. People can also ask for help from the library.
Those who are unable to come to a GGD injection site by themselves or with the help of others due to their health, do not have to do anything yet. They will receive an extra message for a booster vaccination at home.
The booster shot is administered with an mRNA vaccine (Moderna or Pfizer). It doesn’t matter which vaccine someone has had before. People can’t choose.
Outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte and outgoing Minister Hugo de Jonge (Public Health) have announced that the Netherlands is going into lockdown because of the omikron variant of the coronavirus. The measure took effect from Sunday 19 December and will last until at least Friday 14 January. Below is an overview of all changes.
The entire country went back into lockdown from Sunday. This means that only essential stores, such as supermarkets and drugstores, are allowed to open. Services, including gas stations, pharmacies, libraries, driving schools and lawyers, will also continue. In the essential shops there is a mask obligation and a maximum number of visitors of one person per 5 square meters.
Non-essential shops and catering must close their doors. It is still possible to order, pick up or return. Hairdressers, beauticians, cinemas, museums, theaters and concert halls are also not allowed to receive people during the lockdown.
No events are allowed. With this decision, among other things, the Christmas markets will be canceled. Weekly markets and professional sports competitions without an audience are allowed to continue. A maximum of 100 guests may be present at funerals.
The outgoing cabinet repeats the call to stay at home as much as possible and to avoid crowds. The mandatory 1.5 meters away also continues to apply.
The maximum number of visitors at home will be tightened from four to two people. It is recommended to visit no more than once a day. During the holidays, this rule is slightly relaxed and four people over the age of thirteen are allowed to visit. A maximum of two people over the age of thirteen are allowed to gather outside. This does not apply to people within the same household.
During the lockdown, schools and after-school care will also close. From Monday, not only primary schools, but also secondary education, MBO, colleges and universities must close their doors. Physical education is not possible until at least 9 January. The cabinet will decide on 3 January whether education can resume physically after the Christmas holidays. There is an exception for practical education, examinations, examinations and for vulnerable students.
Sports in an indoor location will also not be possible: gyms and other indoor sports locations must close. Swimming lessons are allowed during that time. Outdoor sports locations remain open to everyone between 5:00 and 17:00. Adults are allowed to exercise outside, but there is a maximum group size of two people. They must keep their distance from each other. Children up to the age of 17 are allowed to continue to exercise outside and play matches at their own club.
Students who are attempting to graduate from secondary school this academic year will be allowed to take an extra exam resit. They will also be able to spread out their exams over two periods so that they have more time to prepare. This time there is no room to get an extra fail.
It is the third year in a row that the exam period has been overhauled due to the corona crisis. “Although secondary schools were open this year, students taking their exams this year did not have normal school hours,” says outgoing minister Slob (Education).
That is why the exam rules will also be watered down this year. This gives an extra chance to brush away a bad grade. In addition, the exams are spread over a larger period. A student in quarantine can thus avoid problems. And there is more time for preparation. Slob: “In this way, all students have the opportunity to complete their secondary school period in a good way.”
Unlike last year, there is no room for an extra fail mark (which was the case as long as it was not for Dutch, English or mathematics).
School association LAKS reacts disappointed to the exam decision. The disappearance of the rule where a fail mark can be crossed out, is a painful fact, says chairman Iben Maas. “For the majority of the students, this arrangement was the measure that has the most pressure-reducing effect and therefore also the measure that has the most positive effect for graduation.”
The student association disagrees with the argument that the thumb rule encourages ‘calculating’ behavior on the part of students. “Pupils were therefore able to focus on the subjects that are really important, such as Dutch and mathematics. I don’t understand why that’s a bad thing,” Maas said.
The General Education Association (AOb) is particularly concerned about the extra workload for teachers. The new rules – a third period and two resits – will in practice create more work for teachers, expects AOb director Jelmer Evers. “It is expected that teachers will receive a bulk marking, because more students will make use of the second resit. After all, they can no longer cross out a subject. In addition, exams can be spread over three time periods.”
“It is very good that measures are being taken, because we are concerned about our students. But also about the workload of the teachers,” says Evers. “It is already huge and we know from last year that the workload peaked around the final exams. That will certainly not be less in the upcoming exams without thumb control.”
The exam decision is partly in line with what teachers of exam classes mavo, havo and vwo announced at the beginning of this month via an AOb survey. Teachers would prefer that students be allowed to resit two subjects as a measure when schools remain open. 71% of the teachers ticked this option as one of the options where they could choose multiple answers. A lot less popular are a third time slot (almost 30%) and the extra fail mark (27%).
With the arrival of the first night train from Zurich, the night train connection between the Netherlands and Switzerland started on Sunday 12 December. The Nightjet, as the night train is called, runs daily via Germany to Switzerland in 11.5 hours.
The train departs daily at 8.30 pm from Amsterdam Central Station and runs via Utrecht, Arnhem and the Rhein-Ruhr area to Basel and Zurich. The train arrives in Zurich around 08:00. From then on, a night train from Zurich will arrive in the Netherlands in the opposite direction every morning.
The train consists of fourteen carriages: two sleeping carriages with beds, four couchette carriages and eight seating carriages. In the low season, the train consists of thirteen carriages. An NS locomotive drives the carriages as far as Frankfurt.
The night train to Zurich is the second connection that NS adds to the European night train network. Since last summer, a night train has also been running between Austria and Amsterdam.
The new night train between Amsterdam and Prague will not start in April, but at the beginning of summer. This is reported by the Dutch-Belgian company European Sleeper, which operates the new connection.The reason for the delay is that European Sleeper has not yet succeeded in obtaining enough comfortable sleeping cars that meet its own quality requirements. “As we are working on the availability of comfortable sleeping cars, we will start later than originally planned,” the carrier said.
The exact start date will follow early next year. “By that time, we will also announce the train composition, the different comfort levels and the ticket prices.” Earlier, European Sleeper spoke of an amount between 50 and 70 euros for a single journey. Passengers also get a bed for that. Travelers can also bring a bicycle for an additional fee.
The new sleeper train is scheduled to run three times a week: on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings. The arrival in Prague is the next day around half past ten in the morning. The train departs from Prague on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. The entire route leads from the starting point of Brussels via Antwerp, Rotterdam, The Hague HS and Amsterdam CS to Hanover, Dresden, Berlin and then to the Czech capital Prague.
European Sleeper, which claims that the train journey requires 75 tons less CO2 than by plane, says it wants to run the connection daily as soon as possible. A new night train must then be introduced every year. In 2023 to the Polish capital Warsaw and in 2024 to an unknown destination.
Update on Dujat & Members
The Frans Hals Museum’s Supervisory Board appointed Lidewij de Koekkoek as Managing Director. Lidewij will succeed the outgoing Managing Director, Ann Demeester, as of 1 March, 2022. Ann is leaving the museum to assume the position of Director of the Kunsthaus Zurich.
Lidewij de Koekkoek: ‘This exciting new step comes after more than five exhilarating years at the Rembrandt House Museum, where I experienced major successes, such as the Year of Rembrandt 2019, and faced a number of tough challenges, including the ongoing corona crisis. The Frans Hals Museum is a veritable treasure trove of old, modern and contemporary masters; a museum with a global reach, rooted in Haarlem. It’s above all, a museum of our times; topical and relevant. I attach great importance to the museum’s societal role. It dares to speak out on a variety of topics, including widening the Canon of Dutch History, polyphonic perspectives and the diversification of the collection. It’s an honour to direct such a prestigious museum in my home city of Haarlem, and I look forward to building on its future success. The Rembrandt House Museum and its employees will, of course, always hold a special place in my heart.’
Lidewij de Koekkoek has been the Director of the Rembrandt House Museum since 2016, where she charted a new artistic course with a focus on Rembrandt, the artist and the man. Through her role at Rembrandt House Museum Lidewij has been a most cherished contact person for the Dujat network, and we extend our warmest congratulations to her with this new exciting step in her career.
This is the last biweekly newsletter in the year 2021. We would like to extend our best wishes to everyone for the holidays and the new year, and look forward to hopefully meeting each other again soon.
Registrations are open for our Real Estate Seminar and New Year’s Reception on 24 January. As mentioned before and also with the current situation there is of course a possibility we are not able to organize these events, so we will hope for the best and keep you informed as much as possible
If your company has any news to share in the next biweekly newsletter, let us know by sending an e-mail to email@example.com.
Jinn van Gastel
Project Manager at Dujat
DUJAT (Dutch and Japanese Trade Federation)
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