Weekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 14, 2021

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Tokyo’s Hachioji City began taking appointments from the elderly for coronavirus vaccines. All available slots were filled in about an hour and a half. – ANN News.

Update on Japan

On Thursday 1 April, the Japanese government designated Osaka, Hyogo and Miyagi prefectures for stronger measures against COVID-19 amid a sharp resurgence in infections. The steps, including fines for eateries that ignore mandates to shorten operating hours, will be effective from 5 April for one month. The so-called quasi-emergency measures officially commenced on Monday 6 April.

“These measures are necessary to stop the coronavirus from spreading and prevent the need for another state of emergency,” Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide told reporters last week. The designation came as Osaka reported 616 new infections on Thursday, the most in more than two months and exceeding Tokyo’s 475 cases, and with less than four months until the capital hosts the Summer Olympics.

The three prefectures are the first to be designated as being on the brink of a state of emergency under a revised law that took effect in February. Governors have the authority to choose the cities and towns subject to the stronger measures. Yasutoshi Nishimura, minister in charge of virus response, said he expects the city of Osaka and nearby Kobe, Ashiya, Nishinomiya and Amagasaki in western Japan as well as Sendai in northeastern Japan to be named.

Restaurants and bars will be asked to close by 8 p.m. and could be slapped with a fine of up to 200,000 yen for noncompliance. Attendance at large events such as concerts and sports games will be capped at 5,000.

The measures will take effect as Japan starts its new fiscal year, typically a time for school entrance celebrations and businesses welcoming new hires, and remain through the end of the Golden Week holidays, usually one of the year’s busiest travel periods. The government is arranging to pay up to 100,000 yen each to small and midsize businesses that adopt shorter operating hours under the designation, and up to 200,000 yen to large firms. Restaurant and hotel operators in Osaka, Hyogo and Miyagi prefectures expressed their disappointment to the measure, saying the designation is “just a short-term solution”.

Okinawa and Yamagata prefectures had also been under consideration for designation, but Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato Katsunobu said the government will wait and see if the prefectural governments’ nonbinding requests for eateries to close early can bring down infections.

Osaka Gov Yoshimura Hirofumi called for the stronger measures on Wednesday, saying the prefecture has already entered a fourth wave of infections. On Thursday, he called for the Olympic torch relay leg scheduled for the city of Osaka to be canceled.

Coronavirus cases are also on the rise in Miyagi, which saw a record 200 new infections on Wednesday, and Hyogo, which reported a two-month high of 211. Suga declared a state of emergency in Tokyo and the surrounding area on 7 January, later expanding it to a total of 11 prefectures including Osaka and Hyogo. The measure was lifted in stages with the Tokyo area ending it last on 21 March.

Japan’s health ministry research team is calling on continuing protective measures against coronavirus even after people are vaccinated. The call follows a report that a recipient of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine subsequently contracted the virus.

The team says they learned that a medical worker in her 20s tested positive and was admitted to hospital after she received her first dose in late February. The researchers say the illness report came six days after the vaccination and the recipient was likely infected with the virus after receiving the shot. They added that her condition improved and she has been discharged from hospital.

The team is tracking the health condition of about 19,000 healthcare workers in Japan who were vaccinated. It says this was the first case of coronavirus infection confirmed after workers received a vaccination. The researchers say it is presumed to take about 14 days for a first-dose recipient of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to develop a certain level of immunity.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in March that even people who are fully vaccinated have a slight chance of getting infected and transmitting the virus to others. It said they still need to take preventive measures, such as wearing face masks in public places.

Earlier it was said that Japan will receive bigger shipments of Pfizer Inc’s COVID-19 vaccines to immunize the elderly faster, the government said on Friday after negotiating the increase in supplies. There would be enough vaccines distributed during the two weeks from 10 May to give a first shot to half of Japan’s 36 million elderly people, it said.

Japan’s immunization campaign began in February, later than most major economies, and the Pfizer vaccine is the only one on offer. Health workers have been prioritized, and as of Thursday more than 890,000 people had received at least the first of two shots.

First-come first-served slots that opened on 5 April for some 1,900 doses of the coronavirus vaccine filled in just over 90 minutes in the suburban Tokyo city of Hachioji, one of the capital municipalities starting senior citizen vaccinations on 12 April, The Mainichi reports.

The Hachioji Municipal Government accepted appointments for the first shots via phone and internet. The 1,900 doses were made available to the city’s around 160,000 residents aged 65 and older, and slots filled up a little over 90 minutes after the municipal government’s appointment hotline and website opened at 9 a.m. That same afternoon, the city’s public health center was flooded with inquiries as to when residents unable to make appointments could get vaccinated.

According to the ward office, about 1,000 shots are scheduled to arrive by the end of the week. The office plans to start administering vaccines first to the 12,000 residents at senior homes in the ward and to some of their staff.

Shigetaka Komori, the man who steered Japan’s Fujifilm Holdings through the decline of the photo film industry and transformed it into a medical and office equipment maker, will step down as chairman after leading the company for 20 years, Nikkei reports.

His retirement will be confirmed following the general shareholders meeting in June, after which he will serve as the company’s chief adviser. Kenji Sukeno, the company’s current president and chief operating officer, will be appointed chairman, and Teiichi Goto will take over as president and CEO.

Komori, now 81, was appointed president of Fujifilm in 2000, when the manufacturer was hit hard by shrinking demand for photographic film due to the growing popularity of digital cameras. Fujifilm moved into the pharmaceutical market in 2008 after acquiring Toyama Chemical, and the company reinforced its medical business through the purchase of Wako Pure Chemical Industries in 2017.

Komori became chairman in 2012 and for the last five years has managed the company alongside Sukeno, who became president in 2016. The group forecasts its consolidated net income will reach a record-high in the fiscal year ending March 2021, on the back of a strong performance by its biopharmaceutical business.

Goto, the incoming president, is currently in charge of the medical devices business and led negotiations to acquire the diagnostic imaging equipment business from Hitachi. As president, he will accelerate the expansion of Fujifilm’s health care and overseas operations.

Komori is also closely connected to Dujat as the chairman of the our Advisory Board. We express our deepest respect for his achievements.

Retail investors in Japan have snapped up shares in companies providing digital authentication of documents, betting that the country will make progress in updating age-old business practices for an online era, Nikkei Asia reports. Japan’s House of Representatives passed a bill in a plenary session on Tuesday that will abolish the use of “hanko,” or seals, in administrative procedures. A so-called “digital hanko” could be used instead.

After the approval of the bill, shares in system integrator Nippon RAD, which began offering a digital signature function in 2020, climbed 15% in Tokyo, reaching the highest level in four months. The Japanese company is known as a computer software developer that caters to a wide range of industries, including logistics and the government.

Shares in Vector, an operator of an electronic signature service, climbed over 16%, while Tokyo-based Suzuyo Shinwart’s stock price closed up over 8%. The company also launched a digital seal service last year amid a rise in remote working due to the spread of the coronavirus. Shares in other companies that carry out similar services, including Bengo4.com and GMO GlobalSign Holdings, also rose.

The bill is a part of Prime Minister Suga’s initiatives to digitize administrative processes in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The government aims to scrap more than 99% of the 15,000 procedures that require a seal. Investors are hopeful that Japan’s progress toward eliminating the use of traditional hanko stamps will also prompt more companies to shift to using electronic signatures or seals, rather than hanko or pen and paper.

A major Japanese retailer of casual clothing has posted a healthy return to profit in the latest fiscal year as people stocked up on clothes to wear at home as the pandemic dragged on.

The chain, Shimamura, has shops mainly in suburbs and smaller communities. It says net profit for the year through late February jumped 99.3% to over 26 billion yen, or about 200 million euros. That followed several years of weak results. Sales were up by 4% to nearly 4 billion euros. The company expanded its lineup of casual clothing to meet demand from people spending more time around the house.

Also experiencing a growth are delivery firms, with Japanese parcel delivery firm Yamato Transport handling a record-high number of packages last fiscal year as online shopping surged amid the coronavirus pandemic. Yamato Transport says it delivered nearly 2.1 billion packages in the fiscal year that ended in March. That’s up 16.5% from the previous fiscal year. It’s also the largest number since the company began delivery services in 1976.

Company officials say demand for delivery services has surged during the pandemic because more people are shopping online instead of going to stores.

Other major delivery firms have also experienced a surge in volume. Japan Post delivered more than 1 billion packages during the 11-month period through February. That’s up 13.1% from the same period of the previous year, and likely to be the largest yearly number since the privatization of postal services in 2007. SG Holdings, the parent company of Sagawa Express, saw its delivery volume grow 6% from the previous year in the 9-month period through December.

Delivery firms aim to set up more lockers at train stations and convenience stores where customers can pick up their packages. This will help to relieve the growing burden on drivers and also contribute to anti-coronavirus measures as delivery volumes continue to increase.

All Nippon Airways Co (ANA) began providing a luxury dining experience Wednesday aboard a parked airplane in a bid to utilize its idled aircraft as travel demand has evaporated and start a new service that raises revenue even while the planes remain grounded during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Japanese carrier welcomed “passengers” on board for a special dining experience Wednesday, serving meals typically offered on international flights. “Passengers” have a choice of either Japanese or Western style meals that ANA typically serves in its first class or business class cabins. The food is served aboard a B-777-300ER aircraft parked at Haneda airport in Tokyo.

On the first day of the new service, 56 guests boarded an idle plane at Haneda Airport in Tokyo for lunch on the ground. A first-class seat with a meal costs 59,800 yen (€459), while the offering’s business-class counterpart runs 29,800 yen (€229). Customers choose in advance from three food options: Japanese-style, Western-style beef or Western-style fish.

ANA has named the experience a “restaurant with wings.” and the service will be available twice a day — during the day and evening for 11 days, so 22 sessions in total, each lasting about three hours. No in-flight entertainment is available, but guests receive amenity kits and can use ANA’s lounge at Haneda’s domestic terminal.

“We designed this service so that customers can feel the ambience of the first and business class cabins with all the five senses,” said the manager of the new project. The idea was conceived by employees who wanted to make use of parked aircraft amid coronavirus travel restrictions.

Update on the Netherlands

Snowy Easter in the Netherlands (video).
The RIVM (National Institute for Public Health and the Environment) takes into account that the third corona wave will last shorter. The number of admissions to intensive care units will also be less high at the peak than previously expected. Nieuwsuur reported this on Monday evening on the basis of a new calculation by the RIVM.

The new prognosis is said to have been discussed by the RIVM on Friday and will be revealed on Wednesday during a briefing of the institute in the Lower House. About three weeks ago, the RIVM calculated that the peak of the third wave would be somewhere around 1 May. New data would now show that RIVM expects that peak sometime in mid-April, according to Nieuwsuur .

At that peak moment, according to estimates by the RIVM, approximately eight hundred corona patients will be on the ICs. The institute previously reported a much higher peak of no less than fourteen hundred people with the corona virus on the ICs.

Marc Bonten, medical microbiologist at UMC Utrecht and leading member of the Outbreak Management Team (OMT), told Nieuwsuur that the new prognosis is a result of the number of infections that has not spiked in recent weeks. He does, however, have a “few comments” on the latest expectation, which he believes will only come true if many people are vaccinated in the coming weeks and the cabinet does not implement any relaxation. In addition, people must continue to comply with the corona measures as well as possible, says Bonten. In the eyes of the OMT member, it is currently still too early for easing, because, among other things, the R-number is still above 1.

The AstraZeneca corona vaccine will only be used on people aged 60 or older in the near future. Health Minister Hugo de Jonge has decided this in consultation with the Health Council, the RIVM and the medicine agency MEB. The decision was made because of possible side effects of the vaccine.

The intermission is initially valid until 7 April, next Wednesday. 10,000 vaccination appointments must be canceled immediately, reports the national umbrella organization GGD GHOR. People who have an appointment at the GGD in the coming days will be called or texted.

So far, some 400,000 people in the Netherlands have been vaccinated with AstraZeneca. This concerns people between the ages of 60 and 64 and care workers in nursing homes, care for the disabled and community nursing.  Some people from high-risk groups also receive the AstraZeneca vaccine. This concerns, for example, people with Down’s Syndrome and people with morbid obesity.

There are a number of known cases of people developing severe thrombosis after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine. With thrombosis, a blood clot becomes trapped in a blood vessel. In the Netherlands, five cases are now known of a serious possible side effect: thrombosis in combination with a reduced number of blood platelets. One of those patients has died. The agency investigating the side effects, Lareb, reported this earlier today. Because the complaints are mainly experienced by women under 60, it has now been decided to only administer this vaccine to people over 60 for the time being. The same decision was taken earlier in Germany.

“I would like to emphasize that I am taking this decision as a precaution,” Hugo de Jonge writes in a letter to the House of Representatives. It has not been proven that the thrombosis is caused by the vaccine: it could also be a coincidence that someone develops a thrombosis just after the vaccine.

But a relationship cannot be ruled out yet, and the reports in different countries seem to correspond. Therefore, the use of this vaccine was stopped shortly before.

Professors, students, employees and administrators of Dutch universities are sounding alarm and say they need more funding from the Dutch government to meet a “Normal Academic Standard”.  In a campaign launched on Tuesday under the Dutch universities association VSNU, they say that available government funding per student has been declining for years. For example, the contribution per student in 2002 was approximately 20,000 euros, last year it was 15,100 euros.

With the ‘Normal Academic Standard’ campaign, the universities are calling on the new cabinet to protect the level of academic education and request to invest 1.1 billion euros on a structural basis. “Above all, this means that more teachers must be appointed. There are many more students than twenty years ago. So it takes a lot more work to provide them with good education,” says Casper Albers, professor of applied statistics and data visualization at the University of Groningen in the NOS Radio 1 Journaal.

Lecturers went to The Hague on Tuesday 6 April to present an information package to MPs together with employers, trade unions and student unions, and to portray the difficult position the education is currently in, the activists have put together a series of performances and demonstrations around major student cities in the country.

With many political parties indicating that they do not want to join Rutte in a new cabinet, new elections may even be needed, analysts at Dutch bank ING wrote on Monday 5 April. Due to the ‘political drama’ in The Hague in recent days, it is unlikely that the Dutch economy will be able to benefit from the ‘national recovery plan’ envisaged by outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte this year. Despite all the troubles, the bank’s experts maintain their previous optimistic predictions for the Dutch economy through 2023.

The current political mistrust makes it difficult for the outgoing cabinet to decide on important matters, with the exception of coronavirus-related policies and expanding existing support measures for the economy, the analysts argued. Last Thursday, Rutte’s two largest coalition partners, D66 and CDA, brought forward a motion of censure against him after he narrowly won a no-confidence vote with his image severely damaged. The bank noted that Rutte only held support from his own party after accusations were made against him for misleading parliamentarians on the nature of his discussion with the officially selected scouts who were aiding in coalition building.

The fact that there is no reason to adjust forecasts for economic growth now is because Rutte’s plan had not yet been included in the forecasts. It wasn’t about a very concrete plan either. The prime minister had indicated that he would quickly come to such a plan with the forming parties to give the economy extra support. The latter seems difficult due to all the fuss.

ING is currently assuming that the Dutch economy will grow by 2.4% this year. Due to the continuing lockdown, it is still expected to shrink in the first quarter. But if corona measures can be phased out during the year, the recovery should gain momentum. Still, according to ING, it will probably take a while before the Netherlands can recover from last year’s major corona blow. The bank expects further recovery for 2022 and 2023, with pluses of 3.3 and 1.6%.

People traveling to Germany from the Netherlands must be able to show a negative corona test when they cross the border. The measure took effect on Tuesday, the German government decided. An exception applies to commuters. Germany has designated the Netherlands as a high-risk area because of the “particularly high” number of corona infections. Before the new decision, the Netherlands was classified as a normal risk area and travelers were only required to show a corona test result after 48 hours.

After the Czech Republic, Poland, and France, the Netherlands is Germany’s fourth neighbor to be regarded as a high-risk area. This happens when there are more than 200 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in seven days. The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs advises people not to travel abroad until 15 May, unless it is absolutely necessary.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his colleague Armin Laschet from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia called on people the day not to cross the border at Easter, if that is not necessary. The two prime ministers stated in their joint statement that the current situation is a challenge in a border region where social and economic ties are so great. “With mutual understanding and responsible behavior, let us help usher in the beginning of the end of the pandemic this year.”

The French government has agreed in putting another 4 billion euros in new aid to airline Air France-KLM. In part, this involves the issue of new shares that will be held by France. This gives the French government more say in the group. The French will soon own almost 30% of the shares, compared to 14% now. France also doesn’t want more than 30%, otherwise a public offer would have to be made for all shares. The French state has said it will phase out aid within six years.

Last year, the French and Dutch governments already supported Air France-KLM. KLM was promised a support package of 3.4 billion euros from the Netherlands and Air France 7 billion from France in the form of government loans and guaranteed bank loans. 3 billion of the support that the French government gave at the time is now being converted into a perpetual subordinated loan and is included in the airline’s equity.

The European Commission has attached a number of state aid conditions to the French government’s rescue plan, including limiting the airline’s ‘significant market power’ at airports and a ban on dividend and bonus payments. For example, Air France is relinquishing 18 slots (take-off and landing rights) at Paris Orly airport, in order to give competitors an advantage. That equates to 6,500 fewer flights that can be performed on an annual basis, about 5% of the total number of slots. Initially, the airline feared that it would involve 24 slots. Air France-KLM is also not allowed to pay out bonuses for the time being.

The airline has been in serious trouble due to the corona crisis. The number of passengers fell dramatically and in 2020 there was more than 7 billion euros in losses. Air France-KLM expects to incur a loss of more than a billion in the first three months of this year.

The Dutch government has decided not to buy new shares, Minister Hoekstra writes in a letter to parliament about the recapitalization of Air France-KLM. As a result, the state’s shareholding in AF-KLM will decrease, from 14% to a minimum of 9.3%. According to Hoekstra, the position of the Netherlands is nevertheless safeguarded and remains “a major shareholder and important stakeholder of the company”.

The state is still in talks with KLM and the European Commission about a new support package, given the uncertain prospects for the recovery of aviation and the fact that KLM has indicated that it will not have acute financial problems in the short term. The “impact of possible measures from the European Commission on KLM’s business operations and financial position” and whether “the support is necessary, appropriate and proportional” is being examined.

Monday 5 April was one of the coldest Easter days ever recorded in the Netherlands, with cold air coming in from the North Pole. Throughout the country, snow and hail fell and there was a strong wind, causing damage and nuisance in various places, marking the first snowy Easter in the Netherlands since 2013. They had to endure it especially on the coast, where ferry ports flooded, and many beach houses have been blown to pieces on the beach between Castricum and Wijk aan Zee in North Holland. NH News writes that many owners of the houses had taken precautions, but that there is still a lot of damage.

The KNMI had announced Code Yellow for Monday as well due to wind gusts of up to 120 kilometers per hour. The weather warning is still valid tonight. The KNMI also issued another Code Yellow warning for icy roads on Wednesday morning in the central and eastern parts of the Netherlands, and for high winds along the coastal areas and in the northern provinces. Those regions were expected to again be battered by 100 km/h wind gusts.

During the night from Tuesday to Wednesday localized slippery conditions are expected due to the snow, especially in the east and southeast, Dutch meteorological institute KNMI said. On top of that, another Code Yellow weather warning was issued for portions of the Dutch coast and the northern provinces to take effect early Wednesday morning into rush hour. Heavy gusts of wind of between 80 and 100 km/h are also possible from a northwestern direction, KNMI said in their warning. The windy day will likely bring hail and sleet, though by the afternoon it should be slightly warmer than on Tuesday, but the wind should taper off a bit into the evening.

With any luck, the clouds will break for sunshine on Thursday, when temperatures could reach up to nine degrees as the wind shifts from out of the south. A few moderate days to end the week will likely move aside for more cold, blustery weather on Sunday and Monday as the winds from the north return.

Update on Dujat & Members

Nikon Corporation (Nikon) announces a new organizational structure for its European Imaging Products and Healthcare businesses, aiming to increase agility and competitiveness in a fast-changing market environment to support growth of its well-renowned portfolio of high-quality products and services across Europe. The changes become effective as of April 1, 2021.

Nikon Holdings Europe B.V., which provides corporate support functions for Nikon group companies within Europe, will be merged with Nikon Europe B.V. and Nikon Instruments Europe B.V. on April 1, 2021. Nikon Holdings Europe B.V. will continue as the remaining company.

In addition, Nikon Holdings Europe B.V. will undertake cross-border legal mergers with Nikon GmbH, Nikon France S.A.S., Nikon CEE GmbH and Nikon Instruments S.p.A., with each of these companies continuing as branches of Nikon Holdings Europe B.V. After the merger, Nikon Holdings Europe B.V. will be renamed to Nikon Europe B.V. on April 1, 2021.

If your company has any news to share in next week’s newsletter, let us know by sending an e-mail to vangastel@dujat.nl.

Kind regards,

Jinn van Gastel
Project Manager at Dujat

DUJAT (Dutch and Japanese Trade Federation)

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Sources: Nu.nlNOSRTL NieuwsAmstelveenZJapanTodayNHKJapanTimesMainichi