Weekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 21, 2021

This newsletter was shared with Dujat members on 25-5-2021. This week’s newsletter was sent out today.
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Update on Japan

The Japanese government plans to extend the COVID-19 state of emergency covering Tokyo, Osaka and other areas beyond the current deadline of 31 May.

Sources familiar with the matter said this on Monday, as infections have yet to significantly subside, leaving the medical system strained. One plan under discussion is for the nine prefectures to get a new deadline of 20 June, the same as Okinawa, which was put under the emergency declaration on Sunday, the sources said. Another is for it to expire on 13 June.

Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide is set to decide on the length of the extension within the week after examining the latest infection and hospital occupancy data and consulting health experts. A senior official said the length could differ based on the situation in each prefecture.

Of the nine prefectures, Osaka and Hyogo are already planning to request that the government extend the state of emergency, prefectural officials said Monday. Osaka will finalize the plan in a meeting Tuesday based on the current state of the pandemic, taking into account the strain on the medical system. Hyogo will make a final decision later this week.

“The medical system is in a severe situation. We need to make a judgment after taking this into account,” Osaka Gov Yoshimura Hirofumi told reporters.

The Japanese government formally approved two COVID-19 vaccines developed by Moderna Inc and AstraZeneca Plc on Friday.

People aged 18 or older will likely be eligible for the Moderna vaccine, which is slated to be administered at mass vaccination centers run by the Self-Defense Forces in Tokyo and Osaka, as well as similar facilities being set up by some prefectures and municipalities.

The AstraZeneca shot, however, will not be used immediately amid lingering concerns over rare cases of blood clots being reported overseas, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said. Japanese law stipulates that the government will fully fund inoculations and the treatment of any health problems they cause, and officials are trying to address concerns about side effects with the British vaccine.

Japan now has three available vaccines, also including one developed by U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech SE already in use. Johnson & Johnson said on Monday it has filed for regulatory approval of its one-shot COVID-19 vaccine in Japan, and that it can begin supplying doses to the country in early 2022 once it wins approval.

Japan has vaccinated less than 5% of its population, lagging behind the vaccination pace of other countries. To help speed up the process, Minister Kono Taro said that the Japanese government will consider allowing pharmacists to administer COVID-19 vaccines as well. Japan already deployed its Self-Defense Forces on Monday to aid in the vaccination drive.

Meanwhile, the owner of the Yomiuri Giants baseball team has offered to allow the team’s home field, Tokyo Dome, to be used as a coronavirus vaccination venue for free, starting in August. Giants owner Yamaguchi Toshikazu made the offer during a meeting Sunday with Prime Minister Suga. Yamaguchi told reporters the venue’s concourse will be used to inoculate residents of Bunkyo and Shinjuku wards. Further details will be announced later.

The U.S. on Monday warned against all travel to Japan, but they say this has no impact on the Olympic games.

The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee said the latest travel advisory has little effect on whether it sends its athletes to Japan.

“We feel confident that the current mitigation practices in place for athletes and staff by both the USOPC and the Tokyo Organizing Committee, coupled with the testing before travel, on arrival in Japan, and during Games time, will allow for safe participation of Team USA athletes this summer,” the Committee said.

During the games, the athletes are required to stay in a “bubble.” Athletes coming from overseas are required to show two negative tests to enter Japan, then submit to another PCR test upon arrival. Athletes will be tested daily for two weeks.

Commenting on the advisory, Tokyo Gov. Koike Yuriko said Tuesday she thought the U.S. government had made its decision after assessing the situation in Japan. “We’ll do everything we can for a safe and secure Olympics.”

Cabinet Secretary Kato Katsunobu said it was up to each country whether to send athletes to the event, and the advisory would have no impact on the attendance of the U.S. team. Olympic Minister Marukawa Tamayo told reporters that the advisory does not ban necessary travel. “For now, we don’t expect any impact on the Tokyo Games,” she said.

Japanese airline All Nippon Airways (ANA) has launched a trial of digital certificates for coronavirus test results and vaccination status.

ANA is using a smartphone app, the IATA Travel Pass, developed by the International Air Transport Association. The test began at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport on Monday. The app allows passengers to show their PCR test results and vaccination records on their smartphones to meet the entry requirements for their destination.

The test results and other information are sent directly by designated medical institutions to prevent users from entering the data by themselves. A company employee said it was easy to register and the boarding procedures were smooth.

A senior ANA official, Matsushita Tadashi, said he expects international flights will return to normal in the near future. He expressed hope that his company and the government will work together to put the digital certificate into practical use soon, so that travelers will feel safe.

ANA and Japan Airlines are also testing another digital certificate app, CommonPass, designed by the World Economic Forum and the Common Project Foundation.

Japan’s first sperm bank to launch in June to help couples with fertility problems conceive.

Doctors from Dokkyo Medical University are launching the project in Saitama Prefecture to counter a shortage of sperm donors, NHK reported. They plan to open the sperm bank and start seeking donors in June.

Artificial insemination with donated sperm, known as AID, is currently staged in Japan at medical facilities registered with the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

The treatment typically targets couples unable to conceive due to issues relating to men’s sperm. About 3,400 AIDs were staged at registered facility in Japan in 2018, resulting in 130 births. However, at least six of the nation’s 12 registered medical facilities have stopped accepting patients in recent years, due to a decline in donors.

The move has prompted some people to buy sperm directly from individuals found through means such as social media. Dokkyo Medical University’s Professor Okada Hiroshi, who is leading the project, said such transactions pose numerous problems, including the inability to test sperm for infectious diseases.

Okada’s group plans to limit donors to domestic medical workers aged 20 to 40, who have an understanding of AID procedures. The donated samples will be tested for infections and only sperm that is highly likely to result in a pregnancy will be sent to medical institutions.

The group plans to allow donors to choose whether to provide their personal information to the recipients. However, it will also consider the right of children born through its procedures to know the identity of their biological fathers. The group aims to provide 500 sperm samples to medical institutions per year.

A new kind of eco-friendly Hydrogen-engine vehicle has taken part in a motor race in Japan.

The car was developed by Toyota and has a hydrogen-powered engine. Its race track debut comes as efforts by automakers to achieve carbon neutrality continue to cast a spotlight on electric vehicles.

A 24-hour endurance race kicked off in Shizuoka Prefecture on Saturday, and the hydrogen-powered vehicle was among the participants. The car gives off little carbon dioxide. That’s because its engine burns a mixture of hydrogen and air, instead of gasoline. It reached a speed of about 200 kilometers per hour as it raced around the track.

Toyoda Akio, the president of Toyota Motor, was behind the wheel. Toyoda said that he hopes this race will show people what a hydrogen-powered and carbon-neutral society will look like in Japan.

Toyota is developing electric vehicles, or EVs. But the company is also examining ways to maintain the expertise and skills it has cultivated in the process of making gasoline engines. Gas engines consist of about 10,000 parts that are supplied by many manufacturers. Some fear an abrupt shift to EVs may put those manufacturers in danger.

Toyota is exploring ways to keep using the engines’ technologies, while pursuing the goal of achieving a carbon neutral society.

Japanese car company Mazda and German automaker BMW once developed vehicles with hydrogen-powered engines as well, but those cars are not currently on sale. The high cost of transporting hydrogen and a shortage of filling stations proved to be challenges.

Toyota says its car may help lower the cost of hydrogen-related infrastructure in the future. The automaker also says it hopes to eventually expand its use of the technology to make hydrogen-powered trucks and buses.

Update on the Netherlands

Celebrating the start of the new Nightjet train connection between Austria and the Netherlands.

People born in the years 1966 ー 1970 are eligible to make an appointment for a corona vaccination. 

It is possible to make an appointment online via the website www.coronavaccinatie-afspraak.nl, or by phone to 0800 7070. Make sure you have your passport when doing this, you will need your social security number (BSN).

For Japanese and other non-Dutch speaking members, if you have questions about this, feel free to contact us. It is also advisable to reach out to your HR department.

Earlier relaxations: the Dutch cabinet considers allowing restaurants and museums to reopen from 5 June, insiders reported to NOS. Schools can fully open again from 31 May.

It was initially intended that step 3 of the so-called roadmap towards the reopening of society would be taken on 1 June. But that plan was discontinued at the beginning of May, because the number of infections and the number of corona patients in hospitals rose again.

Then Wednesday, 9 June, was announced. But because things are now going in the right direction with the corona figures, it is being considered to bring that date forward four days, to Saturday in two weeks. The condition is that the number of corona infections continues to decrease.

Step 3 of the roadmap means that the advice on the number of people you can receive at home goes to four. Furthermore, museums and other cultural institutions are allowed to reopen and restaurants are allowed to receive guests again. Other catering businesses such as cafes, will only open in the next step.

On Saturday there was a Catshuis meeting between the cabinet and members of the OMT. It was then decided that secondary schools are allowed to be fully reopened from 31 May, and from 7 June it will even be mandatory for the schools to fully reopen. Easing the measures earlier has also been discussed on Saturday. The corona experts are optimistic about the latest developments.

On Tuesday morning, the first night train from Austria arrived in Amsterdam, marking the start of the new daily train connection between the Netherlands and Austria. 

Last night the so-called Nightjet left from Wien Hauptbahnhof and this morning shortly before 11:00 the train arrived at Amsterdam Central Station.

This means that for the first time since 2010 there is a direct train connection between the two countries again. To celebrate this, the Austrian Minister of Mobility and the director of the Austrian railway company ÖBB, among others, traveled along. They were welcomed on the platform in Amsterdam by State Secretary Van Veldhoven and NS director Marjan Rintel.

The first ride with the Nightjet was initially planned for 13 December, 2020, but that could not take place due to the corona measures. The color code for Germany and Austria is still orange, which only permits necessary travel.

“By starting the new connection on 25 May, we want to be prepared for the moment when we can welcome all travelers again,” the Dutch Railways said earlier. With the arrival of the Nightjet, Vienna is the fifth European capital in the NS timetable after Berlin, Brussels, London and Paris.

The night train is in the picture as a sustainable alternative to the plane. “A single train journey from Vienna to Amsterdam saves almost 100,000 kilograms of CO2 emissions compared to a flight”, according to the Dutch Railways.

The Dutch private rail operator European Sleeper wants to run its first night train from Prague to Brussels next year. In Belgium, the start-up Moonlight Express wants to run a night train between Brussels and Berlin that same year.

People in their 50s account for 26% of coronavirus hospital admissions, showing a decline in the ages of hospitalized corona patients. 

“The people you see in the hospital and on the IC in May are the non-vaccinated,” says IC foreman Diederik Gommers. This is evident from new data requested from the National Intensive Care Evaluation (NICE). Gommers is delighted: “We were already convinced that the vaccine works and these figures show that it actually is. So you can already see an effect after the first injection,” emphasizes the professor of intensive care medicine.

The new data on the ages of corona patients who are admitted to the nursing ward in the hospital, shows that the age has changed. More than a quarter (26.1%) of all patients in the corona nursing ward is now 50 to 59 years old, making it the largest group.

In March and April the largest group still consisted of people in their seventies. And in January and February, in addition to people in their seventies, they were also in their eighties who ended up in the nursing ward with corona. These groups have now largely been vaccinated.

According to professor of medical information science Nicolette de Keizer of the Amsterdam UMC, the age figures show ‘a really huge dip’. “The numbers speak for themselves. The age groups that have been vaccinated have a much lower chance of being admitted at the ICU and in the hospital than groups that have not yet been vaccinated.

Last weekend, the first Eurovision Song Contest since corona brought Europe not only entertainment but also hope. 

The shows in Ahoy Rotterdam filled with spectators offered a cheerful glimpse into a near future with perspective. At the end of last year, executive producer Sietse Bakker announced that the festival would take place in May anyway. Backed by the overarching EBU, Bakker developed four scenarios that could be used for every conceivable corona situation.

From that moment on, the organization radiated calm and the same message was communicated infinitely often: it will continue, we just don’t know how yet, which was clearly of vital importance to participants, broadcasters, media and employees.

The ‘backup tapes’ were the reassuring guarantee of a festival that could be held under all circumstances. As early as March, each participant had to record his or her song in their own country, under strict conditions and under supervision (at a distance) from EBU and the organization.

If no artist could come to Ahoy in May due to the corona situation at that time, a competition could still take place. In the end, only Australia had to make use of this emergency solution when it became clear that a return trip to Rotterdam was still a step too far.

Once the time had come and the corona figures allowed it, 3500 spectators were allowed in Ahoy per show. The dynamics of a live audience, carefully tested and bound by the rules of Fieldlab, lifted the already sparkling shows to a higher level.

From afar, millions of people witnessed the spectacle where Italy was the country to claim first place, but many papers especially praise the organizers and Dutch presenters. The Telegraaf said the Netherlands can be ‘proud’ of the successful event.

A shopping cart full of groceries has become on average about 3% more expensive in the past year.

This is according to figures from market researcher GFK, which were initially requested by the AD. The market researcher saw prices rise by up to 9% in some cases.

For the study, GFK compared grocery prices in the first quarter with figures for the first three months of last year. This shows that fresh products in particular, such as meat (products), bread and salads, have become more expensive. For example, one kilogram of meat costs 9.11 euros this year, compared to 8.55 euros last year.

The price increase is partly due to increased demand. We do more shopping nowadays, because we are more often at home due to the changed work situation. Because we are more often at home, many people have also adopted pets in the past year, which has increased the prices of dry dog ​​food and cat food.

Furthermore, our shopping pattern has also changed; for example, we were more likely to be found in specialist shops, for example to compensate for the lack of catering with meat from the butcher. More alcohol was also bought in supermarkets as a result of the closure of restaurants and cafes.

GFK has good news for people who like biscuits and sweets: those prices have remained virtually the same. Vegetables, fruit and frozen products have also not become more expensive compared to last year. Deodorants and other care products even became slightly cheaper. “Because of the many working from home, we use deodorant and other similar care products less often, which reduces the price,” says a spokesman for GFK.

Update on Dujat & Members

Last week we announced good news: one of the first offline Dujat events is ahead of us again if we keep going the right way with the decreasing infections and increasing vaccinations.

We are pleased to announce that on Saturday, 10 July, 2021, we are planning an event with KNLTB (Koninklijke Nederlandse Lawn Tennis Bond) where Dujat members are welcome to witness one of the Amstelveen Open 2021 tennis games while meeting and catching up with other members.

There will still be safety measures to take into account, and we will probably only be able to welcome limited groups at outdoor events, but we are happy that we could finally meet again for face to face networking.

For a smooth and safe organization of this event we would like to get an indication of who will be interested in attending. If you are interested and did not notify us yet, please send an e-mail to vangastel@dujat.nl and let us know.

Official invitations will be sent at a later time once we finalize the programme and when more is clear about what will and will not be possible. For now, take a look at the information available on our website or in the e-mail we sent last week.

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.nlNOSADTelegraafJapanTodayNHKNikkei Asia