Weekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 2, 2021

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Update on Japan

  • On Tuesday 12 January, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told executives of his ruling party that he plans to expand a state of emergency declared over the coronavirus pandemic to cover Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures amid a resurgence of infections in western Japan.The governors of Aichi and Gifu also plan to request the central government possibly Tuesday to include the two central Japan prefectures to the fresh state of emergency that took effect in Tokyo and the three adjacent prefectures of Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama on Friday.

    Suga told executives of the Liberal Democratic Party at a meeting that he wanted to make “a swift decision” on whether to include the three western prefectures, an LDP lawmaker quoted him as saying.

    “There are regions in the country, including Osaka, that have seen a spike in infections, so we will consider whether to expand the area of the emergency,” Suga said at a separate meeting of the ruling coalition, according to a lawmaker. According to government sources, final arrangements are being made for Suga to declare a new state of emergency in the three prefectures on Wednesday.

    The government is also considering whether it will issue a state of emergency for Aichi and Gifu prefectures at the same time on Wednesday, the sources said.

    Under the state of emergency, people are urged to stay at home as much as possible and restaurants and bars are requested to shorten opening hours. There is no punishment for those who fail to comply, unlike the hard lockdowns some other parts of the world have imposed.

    On Tuesday, following a three-day weekend, Tokyo confirmed 970 additional cases of the virus. It is the first time since 4 January that the figure has slipped below 1,000.

    Osaka Prefecture, which appeared to be containing the spread of the virus at the year-end, reported more than 3,800 new cases in the week through Monday. Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures have also reported record-high daily figures.

    Ahead of the expected expansion of the state of emergency, Hyogo Prefecture requested restaurants and bars in parts of the prefecture to close by 9 p.m. Osaka and Kyoto prefectures, meanwhile, have extended the duration of similar requests for shortened operations by such establishments.

  • Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates on Tuesday agreed on the need to distribute coronavirus vaccines to developing countries in order to ensure the safety of this summer’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, according to a person who sat in on their phone talks.Gates called on Suga to host a successful Summer Games as it would send a strong message to the rest of the world, Suntory Holdings Ltd CEO Takeshi Niinami told reporters. Suga replied that the games are a “very important issue” and would “definitely” go ahead, Niinami said.

    The Tokyo Olympics are slated to start in July having been postponed last year due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, though the Japanese public remains skeptical amid a recent spike in infections across the country.

    During the roughly 15-minute conversation, the co-founder of U.S. tech giant Microsoft Corp and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation expressed hope for the success of the games as well as the Tokyo Nutrition for Growth Summit, a conference on efforts to end world hunger slated for December, according to the Foreign Ministry.

    Niinami, who is close to the prime minister, said he arranged the phone talks at Gates’ request.

    Regarding the games, the head of the organizing committee of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games has expressed his commitment to hold the events this summer. Mori Yoshiro delivered an online New Year’s address to approximately 3,500 committee staff members in Tokyo on Tuesday.

    Referring to questions about whether the Games should be held amid the pandemic, he said he thinks that everything would be affected if he were to waver or show any indecisiveness. Mori said he will calmly proceed with preparations as planned. He also said he wants to work with everyone and emerge from this dark tunnel.

    He said he wants to do his best until the end to bring many people joy and hope in the belief that morning always comes after a long night.

    The committee’s Director General Muto Toshiro said sports are powerful and move people. He said it is his duty to think about how they can hold the Games and not wonder what is going to happen to them.

    The committee says it will have staff members work remotely as much as possible, as a state of emergency has been declared in Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures, and will firmly go ahead with preparations.

  • A new coronavirus variant has been detected in four travelers from Brazil’s Amazonas state, Japan’s Health Ministry said on Sunday, the latest new mutation of the virus discovered.A ministry official said studies were underway into the efficacy of vaccines against the new variant, which differs from highly infectious variants first found in Britain and South Africa that have driven a surge in cases.

    “At the moment, there is no proof showing the new variant found in those from Brazil is high in infectiousness,” Takaji Wakita, head of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, told a health ministry briefing.

    Still, Brazil’s Health Ministry said it has been notified by Japan’s authorities that the new variant has 12 mutations, and one of them has already been identified also in the variants found in the United Kingdom and in South Africa. “It implies in a potential higher virus infectiousness,” it said.

    Of the four travelers who arrived at Tokyo’s Haneda airport on 2 January, a man in his 40s had a problem breathing, a woman in her 30s had a headache and sore throat and a man in his teens had a fever, while a woman in her teens showed no symptoms, the health ministry said. All travelers are in quarantine at Tokyo’s airport, Brazil’s Health Ministry said.

  • Japan will further tighten its border controls from Saturday by requiring all people arriving to submit negative results from virus tests taken within 72 hours of their departure for Japan during the period of the latest state of emergency.The measure will apply to those entering Japan from Wednesday and be effective until a second state of emergency that was declared Thursday is lifted, the Foreign Ministry said. The government said the emergency declaration will run through 7 February.

    Businesspeople and students from Taiwan and 10 Asian nations including mainland China and South Korea are currently allowed to enter under a special scheme aimed at easing travel restrictions. Those from regions other than 152 nations and regions subject to an entry ban are also able to enter Japan at present.

    But under the latest scheme, these people will also need to turn in negative result from a virus test taken within 72 hours of their departure and take another test upon arrival, the ministry said.

    The new rule comes after Japan introduced stricter measures in late December for new entries by foreigners from around the world for business and study, in response to the detection of new variants of the coronavirus announced in Britain.

  • More than 1,200 vehicles were temporarily stranded in central Japan on Sunday as heavy snowfall continued across wide areas of the country, forcing some prefectures to request the Ground Self-Defense Force’s help in rescue operations.About 200 vehicles were stuck near an interchange on the Hokuriku Expressway in Fukui Prefecture as of 11 a.m., while another 830 remained stranded at other sections of the expressway since as early as Saturday, Central Nippon Expressway Co. said.

    Another 200 vehicles were stranded in Toyama Prefecture after a large truck was unable to move on the Tokai-Hokuriku Expressway. About 50 GSDF members engaged in rescue work at the scene, the prefectural government said. West Japan Railway Co suspended some services between Tokyo and Kanazawa in Ishikawa Prefecture on the Hokuriku Shinkansen bullet train line.

    The Japan Meteorological Agency warned of further traffic disruption due to snow and frozen roads. It said heavy snow was expected from northern to western regions on the Sea of Japan side of the country through Monday morning. It was stated that in the 24-hour period through Saturday there was more than 1 meter of snowfall in Joetsu, Niigata Prefecture, and 45 centimeters of snowfall in Sakata, Yamagata, both record highs.

  • Japanese business leaders said Thursday support will be necessary for struggling firms under a second state of emergency over the novel coronavirus in Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures, while they viewed the decision as inevitable due to resurging infections.Under the state of emergency through 7 February, many owners in the restaurant industry are expected to follow a government request to shorten their business hours, bracing for a further drop in revenue after the number of bankruptcies in the sector hit an all-time high last year as many people refrained from dining out.

    They were also asked to stop serving alcohol by 7 p.m. and close by 8 p.m. The government will provide up to 60,000 yen a day to dining and drinking establishments that comply with its request to shorten business hours, an increase from the current support of up to 40,000 yen.

    Facing criticism that the declaration came too late, the government of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is urging companies to make sure that employees work from home or stagger working hours.

    The number of bankruptcies in the restaurant sector involving debts of 10 million yen or more hit a record 842 in 2020, up 5.3% from a year earlier, according to data from Tokyo Shoko Research. The previous high was 800 in 2011 when a major earthquake and tsunami hit northeastern Japan.

    Hiroaki Nakanishi, chairman of the Japan Business Federation known as Keidanren, stressed the need for a “greater sense of crisis” to be shared among all people. The government made a “grave” decision to declare an emergency, Nakanishi said, asking for effective steps against the virus in the shortest possible span of time.

    “It’s essential to maintain employment and businesses from the viewpoint of protecting the lives and livelihoods of citizens and measures toward maintaining social and economic activities are also critical,” Nakanishi said.

    Japanese companies are expected to further promote working from home now that the monthlong state of emergency has been declared for Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama prefectures.

    Unicharm Corp, the maker of hygiene and cleaning products, said employees working at its head office in Tokyo will work remotely until the end of January. Mitsubishi Electric Corp is aiming to lower its goal for the number of employees in office from 30% in the prefectures under the emergency.

    “We will encourage executives themselves to take the lead in reviewing work and strongly request again that our members implement steps to prevent infections such as teleworking,” said Kengo Sakurada, chairman of the Japan Association of Corporate Executives.

    Economists expect the impact of the latest emergency declaration to be less severe than the previous one last year as only four prefectures are targeted.

Press Conference on 12 January.

Update on the Netherlands

  • The lockdown in the Netherlands is effective, but unfortunately not yet effective enough. Therefore the cabinet has extended the lockdown until Tuesday 9 February. Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced this on Tuesday evening during a press conference. According to Rutte, the number of infections is not decreasing fast enough and there are major concerns about the British, more contagious, corona variant.”We are very concerned,” said Rutte. “The images from London and Ireland are alarming and that is an understatement.” According to Rutte, “almost everyone will understand that there was no other choice” than to extend the lockdown by a few weeks.

    Minister Hugo de Jonge (Public Health) added to Rutte’s words that the British mutation is now responsible for “a few percent” of the infections, but that this is even expected to increase. “We have to slow down the spread. We do that with measures.” He also said they now have about a hundred cases of the new variant in the picture, half of which can be traced back to schools. It is not yet clear whether children spread the mutated virus more or whether they are more susceptible. This is still being investigated.

    Because entrepreneurs are hit hard by the extended lockdown, they will receive extra support, Rutte promised. “Especially now that we are seeing light, it is important that we get as many companies and jobs as possible through this crisis.”

    According to Rutte, the cabinet has again thought about introducing stricter rules such as a curfew. He calls it “a drastic measure that nobody wants”. A curfew is not yet being introduced, but the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) has been asked for urgent advice on what a curfew can bring. They hope to inform more about this soon.

    They announced they strongly hope schools and childcare can start again from 25 January, and will hopefully be able to let this know next week if the sitation improves.

  • In Amsterdam, Assen and The Hague, the vaccination of healthcare personnel started on Monday. About 300 vaccinations were scheduled for the first day at all three locations. In the near future, around 30,000 employees of nursing and care homes in the capital and surrounding areas will receive an injection in Amsterdam that protects them against COVID-19.The first injection was taken in Assen at 9:00 am. Vaccinations in the Drenthe region are done at the injection site next to the TT Circuit in Assen. GGD Haaglanden put the first shot at the stadium of football club ADO at 10:00.

    Up to and including Sunday 10 January, 31,000 acute care workers in hospitals have been vaccinated, reported the National Network Acute Care (LNAZ). Since Wednesday, crucial employees of hospitals have been vaccinated.

    Chairman Ernst Kuipers reported that the willingness to vaccinate was more than 95%. “We hope that more vaccines will become available soon, so that the other colleagues can also be vaccinated.”

    A total of 33,000 doses were delivered to vaccinate 30,000 critical care workers. “The 3,000 extra doses were intended to absorb possible waste due to a short shelf life. But through optimal cooperation between the hospitals and ambulance stations, waste was prevented.”

    Also, six instead of the expected five doses could be taken from a vial. This means that, according to the LNAZ, almost 40,000 acute care workers can eventually be vaccinated with the first batch.

  • Pharmaceutical AstraZeneca has submitted an official application to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to approve its in-house developed vaccine, the EMA reported on Tuesday morning. The application was expected; last week EMA already announced their hopes to reach a decision before the end of the month.The AstraZeneca vaccine would be the third COVID-19 vaccine when approved by the EMA as safe. The vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have already been put into use. The AstraZeneca vaccine is already in use in the United Kingdom.

    The interests are great for the Netherlands. The European member states have jointly ordered some 400 million vaccine doses from AstraZeneca, of which the Netherlands receives nearly 12 million. Nearly 10 million doses should be delivered in the first half year.

    The cabinet wants to use the vaccine from AstraZeneca and Oxford University for 18 to 60-year-olds, both with and without medical problems. Some of the healthcare workers can also be vaccinated with the drug, although other vaccines are expected for that target group.

    As with the Pfizer vaccine, two vaccinations are required before the injection offers enough protection against the corona virus.

    The EMA hopes to reach a decision on 29 January, the drug agency said in a statement. The accelerated approval is, in their own words, only possible because the regulator has been watching the investigation of the pharmaceutical company since October. As a result, inspectors have already seen and studied all the data on the effect of the medicine.

  • It is still uncertain when events will be able to resume. The question when we can enjoy events again has been on many people’s minds since the beginning of the pandemic. But finally, if no stricter measures are added, the first pilot event will take place on 22 January. The experiment will test how groups can come together again safely and guarantee the return of safe events this year.“We want to know in February what we can do this summer,” said Pieter Lubberts, program manager at the Fieldlab Events. He hopes the pilot event can determine the ideal package of measures, consisting of rapid tests and vaccines, in order to have a good year for the event industry in 2021.

    Fieldlab plans to have the first test take place during the match of Almere City FC against FC Dordrecht. The idea is to have 1,500 people in the stands, divided into different bubbles. Their behavior will be carefully monitored with the help of a computer chip. This provides insight into the number of encounters and their duration.

    All supporters will undergo a PCR rapid test at the start and end of the match. “We do not exclude all risks 100%, that is not possible. We are aware of all risks and are reducing them,” says Lubberts.

    According to Lubberts, Fieldlab is investigating all options for resuming events. “We do this together with the government. In this way, we hope to create a sensible package of measures in which, for example, the 1.5-meter line can be replaced.”

    The Fieldlab experiment is based on eight building blocks: behavior, triage, tracking & tracing, rapid tests, air quality, dynamics, personal measures, surface hygiene, and vulnerable groups. Monitoring these building blocks during the pilot events must show what can and cannot be done in the long term.

    If the experiment is positive, it means that events may take place this year according to the guidelines devised by Fieldlab. It is expected that the administration of rapid tests will undoubtedly be an essential part of this if the capacity allows it.

    But what does having or not having a vaccine mean for one’s entry to an event? Can people without a vaccine be denied access to an event? Lubberts’s answer to this is that “it is a difficult discussion whether you should be allowed to go to an event earlier with a vaccination certificate. This decision is, therefore, up to the government.” If the government gives the green light for such a rule of access with a vaccine, Lubberts expects the event sector to respond accordingly.

    With this pilot, Fieldlab also hopes to make it clear to consumers that events can be safely revisited in the future. Lubberts himself is “moderately positive” and has high hopes. “We really hope that we can start up again from 1 February. Of course, not all at the same time and not yet with maximum capacity. But I do think that there will be festivals again this summer,” he says.

    Whether this will prove itself to be true will depend on the results of the pilot. “It remains an amalgamation of hope and realism,” says Lubberts. For companies in the event sector, the experiment is, in any case, a small ray of hope on the horizon. We will be eagerly awaiting the results.

  • Despite the pandemic putting pressure on the Dutch economy, 2020 saw remarkably few Dutch businesses go bankrupt. A total of 2,703 companies were declared bankrupt last year, 16% less than in 2019 and the lowest number since 1991, Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reported on Tuesday.The stats office attributed the low number of bankruptcies to the coronavirus support measures the government put in place to help businesses survive the pandemic and its accompanying lockdowns. These support measures also stabilized companies that may have collapsed if there had been no pandemic and no support.

    The number of bankruptcies decreased in most industries. In absolute numbers, the decrease was strongest in trade – the industry with the most businesses in the Netherlands. In this sector, the number of bankruptcies decreased from 730 in 2019 to 581 this year. Specialist business services also saw a big decrease in bankruptcies in absolute numbers. Percentage wise, the biggest decrease was in health and welfare care.

    The hospitality industry, on the other hand, saw an increase in the number of bankruptcies. A total of 235 accommodation and catering businesses went bankrupt last year, compared to 196 the year before.

Update on Dujat & Members

  • With the extended lockdown in place, unfortunately we also have to make a few changes in our upcoming schedule again.- As announced before, the New Year’s Kampai that was scheduled on 25 January will be postponed, we will make sure to organize a welcome back party as soon as the measures and the virus alow this.

    – For the Seminar with Houthoff on 10 February we originally wished to welcome you at the Houthoff office in Amsterdam. However since this is not possible, this event will take place as an online webinar. More information will follow later this month.

    – The intercultural workshop with Many Truths and JIC at Amity Internation School which was scheduled on 18 February, will be postponed until Tuesday 17 August. We look forward to welcoming you then!

    The Brexit webinar scheduled on 27 January will take place as originally planned, you may expect the invitation in your inbox very soon.

  • 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)

蘭日貿易連盟 | www.dujat.nl

Stroombaan 10 | 1181 VX Amstelveen | The Netherlands

Sources: Nu.nlNOSCBSJapanTodayNHKKyodo News