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Update on Japan
Japan on Friday 30 December started requiring COVID-19 tests for all passengers arriving from China as an emergency measure against surging infections there and as Japan faces rising case numbers and record-level deaths at home.
Japan tightened its border measures on Friday, making the antigen test that was already conducted on entrants suspected of having COVID-19 mandatory for all people arriving from mainland China. Those who test positive will be quarantined for up to seven days at designated facilities and their samples will be used for genome analysis.
The measures began ahead of the New Year holidays marked by travel and parties. Direct flights between China and Japan will be limited to four major Japanese airports for now, government officials said.
Flights from Hong Kong and Macao will be allowed to land at three other airports – New Chitose Airport in Hokkaido, Fukuoka Airport and Naha Airport in Okinawa – provided there are no passengers who have been to mainland China within seven days prior to the flight.
Hong Kong authorities called the restrictions “unreasonable” and requested Japanese authorities to withdraw them. Prior to adding the three airports for flights from Hong Kong and Macao, authorities said that 60,000 travelers and some 250 flights would be affected between December and January 2023.
Japan earlier this year stopped requiring COVID-19 tests for entrants who had at least three shots – part of the country’s careful easing of measures after virtually closing its borders to foreign tourists for about two years. This year’s holiday season is the first without virus restrictions other than recommendations for mask wearing and testing.
The country is now reporting about 200,000 known daily cases.
Japan is set to serve as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for two years, starting this year.
This is the 12th time Japan has been elected to the role, more than any other UN member. The country will also hold the monthly rotating presidency of the Council in January.
Five permanent members, including the United States and Russia, and ten non-permanent members sit on the Council. It is the only UN body that can make legally binding decisions such as imposing sanctions and authorizing the use of force.
The Japanese government plans a ministerial-level open debate on the rule of law. Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa, who will chair the debate, apparently wants to stress the importance of strengthening order based on international law.
But Japan is expected to face challenges in steering the Council, with major powers at odds over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and North Korea’s missile program.
Western nations and Russia have clashed sharply since Moscow began its invasion of Ukraine in February of last year, with Russia repeatedly vetoing resolutions submitted by the West.
Critics also point out that the Security Council has been unable to fulfill its functions over North Korea’s continuous missile launches. The US and European countries are calling for tougher sanctions against Pyongyang, but China and Russia are opposed to the idea.
Observers are wondering what role Japan will be able to play as the most experienced non-permanent member, to promote peace and stability in the international community.
Japan has seen a record number of avian flu cases this season, with the 53rd confirmed at a poultry farm in Asahi City in Chiba Prefecture, near Tokyo.
Local authorities said on Tuesday 3 January that they identified the highly contagious bird flu virus after responding to a report of 30 chickens found dead at the farm the previous day.
They will cull around 10,000 chickens at the farm, and have banned the transport of chickens and eggs within a 3-kilometer radius. They have also restricted shipments within a 10-kilometer radius.
The agriculture ministry says the number of bird flu cases this season has surpassed the previous record in the winter of 2020-2021.
Chiba Governor Kumagai Toshihito said on Monday that further outbreaks must be prevented to minimize the impact on the local poultry and livestock industry.
In the face of rising concerns about environmental degradation and a global move toward sustainability, two of Japan’s top airlines have begun to transform their operations to greener practices.
Japan Airlines (JAL) has started experimentally operating what it calls a net-zero emissions charter flight, while All Nippon Airways has been using a “sharkskin” film that improves a plane’s aerodynamics and allows less fuel to be burned.
JAL operated its first such flight, from Haneda Airport in Tokyo to Naha Airport in Okinawa, on Nov. 18. With the one-day tour costing 25,000 yen ($189) per person, the flight was boarded by some 250 tour-goers.
The plane flew on 40% sustainable aviation fuel made from a variety of sources including recycled waste oil. To achieve net zero, the carrier also “offsets” emissions by investing in forest preservation and taking other measures.
The flight’s offset costs roughly 330 yen per person. JAL said it is also counting its use of the Airbus A350, which is more fuel-efficient than conventional aircraft, as part of its carbon reduction. To cut fuel consumption, JAL said the plane taxied with one engine, instead of two usually, and ascended faster than usual after taking off.
JAL’s green efforts continued in-flight with an environment-friendly, meat-free menu. For example, passengers were offered soy-based burgers that were wrapped in biodegradable plastic.
JAL wants to offer passengers “an air trip they can feel proud of,” said Executive Officer Noriyuki Aoki, given as air travel is increasingly frowned upon by the environmentally conscious. Both JAL and ANA are striving for net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050.
ANA has signaled its move toward a more sustainable future by operating aircraft painted green, rather than its usual blue. It started to fly its green jet internationally in October and another one domestically in November. Since November, its first domestic flight was fueled by SAF.
ANA has also begun experimenting on increasing the aerodynamism of its planes to reduce fuel consumption by applying its sharkskin film on fuselages. It is also using headrest covers that are made from plants, rather than plastic materials, and are biodegradable.
JAL and ANA hope that their efforts toward decarbonization can rally businesses around the cause and in particular, the domestic production of SAF. They also hope that by moving first, they would be ahead of their rivals.
The Japanese government will in fiscal 2023 increase its financial support for child-rearing families who move out of the Tokyo metropolitan area, providing up to 1 million yen (±€7,200) per child, an increase from the current 300,000 yen.
Launched in fiscal 2019, the incentive program is aimed at encouraging people raising children to move to areas with declining birthrates and aging populations.
Eligible are households that have resided in the 23 wards of Tokyo, the core of Japan’s capital, for more than five years in the past decade, including the past year.
Families with parents commuting to the wards from elsewhere in Tokyo, as well from the prefectures of Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa, during the same time frame are also eligible.
Movers will in principle receive 1 million yen per household if they meet one of three conditions: employment at a small or midsize company in the area they relocate to; continuing their pre-relocation work via the internet; or starting a business in their new area of residence.
The incentive program includes an increase in financial support in accordance with the number of children a family has. At present, the additional subsidy is 300,000 yen per child.
Under the new rule starting next April, a couple with two children will receive up to 3 million yen. There will be no income test for the support.
The comprehensive strategy for the plan, adopted by the government at a cabinet meeting last Friday, includes a five-year plan from fiscal 2023 to bring the number of movers to rural areas from the Tokyo metropolitan area to 10,000 people in fiscal 2027.
The government will also promote the development of environments to make life easier for people who move to rural areas.
It will provide subsidies for local government programs on using digital technologies such as self-driving buses and remote medical care. It will increase the number of local governments with official satellite offices to 1,200 in fiscal 2027, up from 654 in August 2022.
Update on the Netherlands
Saturday was the warmest New Year’s Eve ever measured by the KNMI: at 00:00 at De Bilt main station, a temperature of 15.6 degrees was reached. In our region, the weather station in Heino measured 15.3 degrees.
The national record of 12.1 degrees from the turn of the year 2006/2007 has thus been broken. In Eindhoven, it was warmest around midnight, with 16.9 degrees. Moreover, this immediately broke the heat record for the month of January on Sunday, which stood at 15.1 degrees, measured on January 13, 1993.
The two other official weather stations in the distribution area of the Stentor, Marknesse and Lelystad, recorded 13.8 and 14.5 degrees at midnight respectively.
Saturday was already the warmest New Year’s Eve ever, with a measured temperature of 15.9 degrees in De Bilt. This set a new heat record for the month of December at the main station, according to Weeronline.
The old December record was 15.3 degrees and was measured on December 24, 1977 and on December 17, 2015. In the southeast of the country, it became even warmer on Saturday. The thermometers there indicated values of 15 to 17 degrees. In Ell and in Arcen, both in Limburg, it was warmest with 17.6 degrees.
Earlier Saturday, daily records were also tightened. First locally and then officially when it reached 14.5 degrees in De Bilt just before noon.
New Year’s Day was also exceptionally warm, with maximum temperatures of 15 degrees in the southeast. In the rest of the country, the temperature is expected to be between 11 and 14 degrees.
Still, the weather feels more like autumn than spring, with lots of wind and rain. There will be mostly clouds, later in the day the chance of rain will increase from the south. Weeronline does not expect last night’s temperature records to be broken again on Sunday.
The Netherlands generated almost 300 petajoules of renewable energy this year, 15% more than last year. This is evident from figures from Energieopwek.nl on Wednesday 28 December. The sustainable energy saved 22 megatons of CO2.
“It is quite a lot,” says Martien Visser, Professor of Energy Transition at Hanze University of Applied Sciences and developer of Energieopwek.nl. “In the beginning, growth is easy, but around the 15% sustainable energy level where we are now, it becomes more difficult to maintain.”
Solar energy in particular grew rapidly: this year, solar panels generated 40% more energy than last year. That was partly because it was particularly sunny. The various forms of biomass, such as blended fuels in cars, have become somewhat less important due to the growth of sun and wind.
According to Visser, subsidies are an important reason why so much renewable energy has been added this year. The high electricity and gas prices hardly play a role, he says. “People might prefer a solar panel on the roof, but those were already popular. And erecting windmills is a very slow process. Energy prices have not yet resulted in a single extra wind turbine.”
Visser is optimistic about the coming years and expects that the target of 16% renewable energy in 2023 will be achieved. “It is not very difficult to predict, because many projects have already received a subsidy, but have yet to be realized.”
From 5 January, travelers from China will be offered a corona self-test upon arrival at Schiphol. This is what health minister Ernst Kuipers (VWS) wrote in a letter to the House of Representatives.
In addition to the corona self-test, travelers also receive information to perform the test. The minister has also asked RIVM to check the sewage water around Schiphol more strictly for virus particles. This check starts immediately.
According to the minister, the measures are now necessary because the corona virus is spreading rapidly in China. But he sees no reason yet to require travelers from China to quarantine on arrival or to take a self-test before the flight.
Should the situation deteriorate, a mandatory quarantine and self-test should be possible. To this end, a bill from the minister still needs to be discussed in the Senate. He therefore calls on the Senate to deal with this quickly.
At the moment, China does not share reliable data about the infections, the minister continues to write in the letter to parliament. This would make it difficult for international health authorities to monitor the developments of the virus in the country. According to Minister Kuipers, it will also become impossible to detect new and potentially dangerous virus variants in the country.
Earlier, the Dutch government said that measures were not yet necessary. “We are keeping a close eye on it. If we receive a signal from the RIVM that measures are needed, then we are ready,” said a VWS spokesperson after it became known that Italy requires travelers from China to take a corona self-test upon arrival. Such a test is now also mandatory for Chinese tourists who want to go to Spain, France or the United Kingdom.
After a wave of protest, China has lifted almost all corona measures in recent weeks. This leads to many more infections in the country, which has had a very strict policy for more than two years. According to an estimate by the Bloomberg news agency, 37 million people were infected in one day last week. It was previously known that crematoriums in Beijing, among others, are working overtime.
Avian flu is rampant worldwide. In birds, but also regularly in mammals, according to new American and European figures. This increases the risk of a variant that is dangerous to humans.
Many dozens of foxes, a nice army of skunks, quite a few seals on the northeast coast. And one black bear in Alaska. A total of 98 wild mammals – thirteen different species – in the United States have been diagnosed with bird flu in the past nine months. The number of infections in mammals is also increasing in Europe. In the Netherlands, a polecat, badger, fox and otter were found to have had the virus in the past year and a half.
“We have very rarely seen this in the past fifteen years,” emphasizes Thijs Kuiken, virologist at the Erasmus Medical Center. “During the outbreak in 2005 and 2006, we saw how domestic cats were infected all over the world. Especially in the Middle East and Indonesia, but also in Germany, for example.”
An important difference with now: the virus then only circulated at companies that kept poultry or other birds. Large groups of wild birds worldwide are now also infected. It is therefore no coincidence that the virus mainly circulates among carnivores that regularly eat a bird.
“The advantage is that they often live solitary lives,” explains Kuiken. “A fox is not likely to infect many conspecifics.” It is different with seals. They will not easily devour a bird, but they are curious by nature. “Seals live in groups, in which an avian flu variant is more likely to circulate and mutate.”
According to Kuiken, the key to really curbing the risk of bird flu lies in poultry farming. In the short term by vaccinating the animals there, so that the spread in stables stops. Several European countries are currently working on vaccines. Wageningen University & Research (WUR) is also currently testing three ways of preventively vaccinating birds. The first results of these tests are expected later this month.
In the longer term, as far as Kuiken is concerned, interventions in the sector are also needed in the Netherlands. Poultry farms near water are at extra risk, because bird flu mainly circulates in wild waterfowl. And with a large concentration of companies, such as in the Gelderse Vallei and in North Limburg, there is a risk that poultry farms will infect each other. Such a chain reaction has not yet occurred: during outbreaks, the flu virus always entered the barn via wild birds. In recent weeks, it has even been relatively quiet in terms of new bird flu reports.
Online stores have stopped sending products free of charge as standard. Consumers also have to pay more often for returning items. This is evident from an inventory that price consultancy Simon-Kucher did at the request of Het Financieele Dagblad.
“Many e-commerce players are currently rethinking their shipping policies,” says Mark Helder. As a director at Simon-Kucher, he advises webshops on the subject. And that is high on the agenda, he says.
This is because the transport of goods has become much more expensive, raw material prices remain high and the logistics sector is struggling with shortages. Consumers also return more items each year, says Helder. That costs stores a lot of money: a return often costs twice as much as collecting and home delivery of an item.
The changes are playing out throughout the retail sector. For example, online clothing giant Zalando has introduced shipping costs for small orders, DIY store Hornbach charges a surcharge due to the high fuel costs of transport services, and computer store Alternate recently introduced return costs of €5.95.
‘Retailers have spoiled the consumer incredibly. Shipping was free, so were returns’, says Michiel Witteveen, owner of Blokker and Intertoys, among others. These stores ship orders from €25 (Blokker) and €20 (Intertoys) free of charge, below which customers have to pay €4.99 for shipping costs. “It’s not profitable to deliver a €10 gift to someone’s home, even if you charge for shipping.”
The end of standard free shipping and returns shows that the golden age for online stores is over. During the corona pandemic, the popularity of online shopping rose rapidly. Because shops had to close for months, there was sometimes no alternative, and home workers could easily receive their packages. Web stores achieved record sales during this period, and a number of stores even reduced or eliminated shipping costs during the pandemic.
That is very different now. Clothing retailers Zalando and Asos had to issue profit warnings last summer. Bol.com announced in December that it would cut three hundred jobs and cut €225 million in the coming years. The growth rate achieved in the pandemic proved unsustainable. Another factor is that consumers have become cautious, because their disposable income is under pressure from double-digit inflation and high energy bills.
Update on Dujat & Members
Happy new year! We are pleased to invite members to attend our New Year’s Reception on the 23rd of January. If you missed the invitation please contact our office.
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)
蘭日貿易連盟 | www.dujat.nl
Stroombaan 10 | 1181 VX Amstelveen | The Netherlands
Sources: Nu.nl, NOS, RTL Nieuws, Parool, NHK, Nikkei, JapanToday