Weekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 3, 2021

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Minister Kono Taro who will be in charge of Japan’s vaccine coordination.

Update on Japan

  • On Tuesday 19 January, the Tokyo metropolitan government reported 1,240 new cases of the coronavirus, up 36 from Monday. The tally brought Tokyo’s cumulative total to 87,914. The number (662 men and 578 women) is the result of 6,994 tests conducted on 16 January.By age group, the most number of cases were people in their 20s (282), followed by 211 in their 30s, 192 in their 40s, 186 in their 50s, 104 in their 60s, 92 in their 70s and 69 in their 80s. Also, 88 cases were younger than 20 (28 of whom were younger than 10), health officials said. The number of infected people hospitalized with severe symptoms in Tokyo is 155, up 12 from Monday, health officials said. The nationwide figure is 1,001.

    Nationwide, the number of reported cases was 5,295. After Tokyo, the prefectures with the most cases were Kanagawa (737), Osaka (525), Chiba (487), Saitama (421), Aichi (247), Hyogo (218), Fukuoka (200), Kyoto (143), Okinawa (113), Tochigi (94), Hokkaido (92), Ibaraki (66), Gifu (65), Miyagi (61), Gunma (48), Yamaguchi (47) and Shizuoka (40). Seventy-nine coronavirus-related deaths were reported nationwide.

  • Japan’s main ruling party has approved a set of draft bills that would penalize businesses and individuals that refuse to comply with measures to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. The Liberal Democratic Party’s General Council approved proposals to revise three laws related to infection preventive measures on Tuesday.One bill will allow prefectural governors of areas under a state of emergency to ask or order businesses to change their operating hours, and conduct onsite inspections, even before an emergency is declared.

    The governors will have the power to fine businesses that fail to comply. Under a state of emergency, the fine could be up to about 500,000 yen (4,000 euros), and up to about 300,000 yen (2,000 euros) in places where “preventative measures” are being implemented. Refusal of an onsite inspection could be subject to a fine as well.

    Another bill includes new stipulations that will allow governors to request people who are infected to stay at designated accommodations. If people refuse, governors can recommend they be admitted to a hospital. If they still fail to comply, or if they escape from the hospital, they could face a maximum fine of 1 million yen (8,000 euros) or a prison sentence of up to one year.

    One of the three bills is a revision to the quarantine law. The bill stipulates that officials will be allowed to ask people arriving in Japan from abroad to self-quarantine for 14 days in principle. Officials will be able to have people who refuse self-quarantine to stay at facilities. If people fail to comply, they could also risk a 1 million yen fine or one-year prison sentence. The government plans to approve the draft bills in a Cabinet meeting later this week and have them passed swiftly in the current session of the Diet.

  • Japan’s Regulatory Reform Minister Kono Taro will lead the efforts to roll out coronavirus vaccines in the country, with the aim of starting by late February. Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide revealed a plan to carry out vaccinations at a news conference on Monday 18 January. He instructed Kono to coordinate the entire process. Suga said the government will do its utmost to deliver safe and effective coronavirus vaccines.The government sees vaccinations as a key to containing the spread of the virus. It aims to make vaccines available by late next month, after checking their safety and efficacy. Kono said authorities need to work as a team in cooperation with the public. He said he will strive to get as many people as possible vaccinated as quickly as possible.

    The government hopes to start vaccinations for medical workers around late February and for the elderly in late March, followed by those with underlying health conditions. They plan to step up coordination with municipalities, so they will be able to administer vaccines smoothly to residents. It also plans a public relations campaign to encourage people to get their shots. The government will continue to call on people to cooperate to reduce commuting by 70% and refrain from nonessential outings.

  • Japan’s top government spokesman said Tuesday that the widespread distribution of coronavirus vaccines is not a prerequisite for going ahead with this summer’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. “We are considering comprehensive measures to hold a safe and secure games, even without making vaccines a condition,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told a press conference.Prime Minister Suga’s administration has remained adamant that the Olympics and Paralympics, postponed last year due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, will be held from late July through early September, despite public skepticism as infections in the country continue to surge. Around 80% of respondents in a Kyodo News survey conducted this month said the games should be rescheduled again or canceled.

    Vaccinations are slated to begin in Japan by late February, starting with medical workers, followed by people aged 65 or older from late March, then people with pre-existing conditions and those caring for the elderly. Suga, who turned 72 last month, falls in the second category and will be inoculated when his turn comes, said an official from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

    Administrative reform minister Taro Kono, who was appointed to lead the vaccination efforts, promised the swift distribution of doses across the country. “I will do everything in my power to ensure safe and effective vaccines can be given to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible,” he said at a press conference on Tuesday. The distribution of the vaccines has various logistical challenges, including the need to store some types at subzero temperatures.

    Kono said his job would be clearing those hurdles, but the government’s coronavirus response would continue under the purview of economic and fiscal policy minister Yasutoshi Nishimura and health minister Norihisa Tamura.

    Suga has vowed to secure vaccines for Japan’s population of 126 million by the first half of 2021, with the government having agreements with Pfizer Inc., AstraZeneca Plc and Moderna Inc. to receive enough doses for 145 million people.

    The Pfizer vaccine, the only one already under review by the health ministry, is expected to receive fast-track approval based on clinical trials conducted in other countries. Tamura said for vaccinations to move forward according to the government’s timeline, approval would need to come in mid-February. “We are making plans with that in mind,” he said at a press conference on Tuesday.

  • The Japanese cabinet decided Friday last week to use 741.8 billion yen in reserve funds for fiscal 2020 to increase subsidies for restaurants and bars cutting business hours following the latest emergency declaration over the resurgent coronavirus pandemic.The funding will be provided so that municipalities can offer financial support to operators more easily in return for complying with local requests to shorten their hours, with state subsidies of up to 60,000 yen per day available.

    The government increased the upper limit of the subsidy from 40,000 yen when Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide declared the country’s second state of emergency over the virus in Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures last week amid a third wave of infections.

    The declaration was expanded on Wednesday to cover a total of 11 prefectures also including Osaka, Aichi and Fukuoka. Under the state of emergency through 7 February, restaurants and bars are asked to stop serving alcohol by 7 p.m. and close their business by 8 p.m. The central government had allocated about 270 billion yen by the end of last year for local governments to provide such subsidies.

    The government has set aside a total of 11.5 trillion yen in reserve funds under two extra budgets for the current fiscal year from April to be used in response to the pandemic. Following Friday’s cabinet approval, 5.66 trillion yen remains in the funds.

  • To help stem the spread of the resurgent coronavirus, 25 train operators in the the Tokyo metropolitan area will move up their last departure times by around 30 minutes from Wednesday night  The schedule change comes after the governors of Tokyo and the three neighboring prefectures of Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama, as well as the transport ministry, made the request earlier this month.East Japan Railway (JR East) will suspend a total of 42 trains on weekdays and 40 trains on Saturdays and Sundays on its 11 lines, which include the Yamanote, Chuo, Keihin Tohoku and Keiyo lines. Other train operators moving up the last departure times include Tokyo Metro and Toei subways, and the Tokyu, Keikyu, Seibu, Tobu, Keio, Keisei and Sagami companies.

    The changes are expected to last at least until 7 February, the current end date of the virus state of emergency. Railway operators have already decided to bring forward last train departures in the Tokyo area from this spring. In addition to responding to fewer passengers traveling late at night, they aimed to improve conditions for maintenance staff who work overnight after train services conclude.

Rutte III Cabinet (2017-2021) with King Willem-Alexander on 26 October 2017.

Update on the Netherlands

  • About 4,822 people in the Netherlands tested positive for the coronavirus infection on Monday 19 January, bringing the seven-day average down to 5,655. That average was 52% lower than the highest average established in the Netherlands, 11,788, on 22 December. The moving average fell by 22% last week alone.Despite the falling infection figures, the chair of the acute care providers network said that the lockdown needs to remain in place for the time being. Ernst Kuipers also said during a press conference that there was justification to implement a curfew and to tighten up restrictions on the number of visitors allowed in a household.

    “The time to intervene is now,” he said. Kuipers was concerned about the B117 coronavirus mutation which originated in the United Kingdom. He said that he believes that every 100 people contagious with the strain more common to the Netherlands will infect 95 others. A hundred infected with the B117 variant will pass the virus on to 130 others. “That is still a conservative estimate,” he stated. “In the bleakest scenario, there will be 1,700 people in the ICU by the end of March, more than the peak of March last year.”

    Prime Minister Mark Rutte (VVD) and Minister Hugo de Jonge (Public Health, CDA) will shortly introduce additional measures to prevent the spread of the corona virus, Minister Hugo de Jonge wrote in a letter to Parliament on Tuesday. A press conference will be held on Wednesday afternoon. De Jonge writes in his letter that the press conference will take place at the beginning of the afternoon. It has not been disclosed which measures will then be announced.

    It is known that the introduction of a curfew has been discussed for some time. The cabinet has asked the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) for urgent advice, and the mayors in the Security Council will discuss the measure on Tuesday evening. The curfew should ensure that social contacts in the evenings are limited. Many infections now take place in people’s homes, for example through visits to the floor.

  • Last week, the Rutte III cabinet collapsed due to the childcare allowance affair, in which thousands of parents ended up in serious financial problems after the Tax Authority wrongly labeled them fraudsters and ordered them to repay their childcare allowance. In some cases this involved tens of thousands of euros.After the Council of Ministers met for 2.5 hours last Friday, it was announced that Prime Minister Mark Rutte would offer his cabinet’s resignation to King Willem-Alexander. Minister Eric Wiebes of Economic Affairs and Climate is stepping down with immediate effect, and will not form part of the outgoing cabinet, which will handle the current affairs until a new cabinet is installed. He will be succeeded by Bas van ‘t Woud, insiders told news wire ANP after reports in De Telegraaf. The 41-year-old VVD politician is currently State Secretary of Social Affairs and Employment.

    By announcing its resignation, the Rutte III cabinet is now officially an “outgoing cabinet”. This means the cabinet resigned, but remains in office until a new cabinet is chosen, because someone has to run the country. The cabinet will still deal with current cases – which here means mainly the coronavirus pandemic – but controversial or sensitive subjects will be left to the next cabinet. What is controversial or sensitive will be determined by parliament and the Senate.

    The four coalition parties also agreed that as outgoing cabinet, Rutte III will remain in charge of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, as Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said before the Council of Ministers. “In this area everything will stay the same. So there will still be a majority for the corona plans in parliament,” a source close to the cabinet said to NOS.

    The Netherlands will be holding parliamentary elections on 17 March, with some polling stations opening earlier this year to allow for more social distancing during the pandemic.

  • So far, 75,000 residents of the Netherlands have been vaccinated against Covid-19, roughly 0.4% of the entire population, public health institute RIVM said on Monday. That includes 40,000 acute care workers, and 35,000 healthcare employees at live-in facilities for people with disabilities. Vaccination of the first residents of nursing homes and disability care homes began on Monday. This week, the government expects to vaccinate 15,000 care home residents.On Friday, municipal health service GGD also opened up all remaining mass vaccination points, meaning there are 26 locations in country’s 25 healthcare regions. “This will really get the vaccination operation underway,” Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said. “With the help of institutional doctors, we are now starting to protect our elderly and the most vulnerable people. They are the most important group in the vaccination strategy.”

    The GGD expects to vaccinate 66,000 healthcare workers per week, and will scale up the operation as more vaccine doses are delivered to the Netherlands. This week, vaccination for the disabled is taking place in more than ten care facilities across the country.

    Care home residents will receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. Transportation of the Pfizer vaccine is complicated due to the low -70 degrees Celsius temperature required to store the medicine. “RIVM has worked out how the vaccine can be provided to these institutions,” the Health Ministry stated.

    “These are large institutions with residents who are spread over numerous small locations across the country. The hospital pharmacists take care of the distribution and provide support to guarantee quality and medical care,” said the LNAZ, the national network of acute care providers.

    In the upcoming weeks, the coronavirus vaccine, Moderna will also be used in the fight against the disease. It will primarily be given to the elderly and people with a disability living in small care facilities. These vaccinations will be carried out by their general practitioner. Acute care workers will receive their second dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine beginning on 27 January.

  • Primary schools and child care facilities in the Netherlands will remain closed until Monday, 8 February, the Dutch government announced on Sunday after members of the outgoing Cabinet met with advisors from the Outbreak Management Team (OMT). Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said earlier this month that they hoped the schools could open back up on 25 January, two weeks before the projected end of the lockdown.With the lengthier school shutdown, the outgoing Cabinet was looking at how it might be able to arrange paid or partially paid coronavirus leave for parents forced to combine caring for their children with their jobs. “I realize this is a blow to parents, teachers and students. Helping your children with school while you have to do your work at the same time is very hard,” said Arie Slob, the caretaker Education Minister.

    The government made the decision based on advice from the OMT, emphasizing that it was an important way of reducing the amount of close-contact moments between adults, which “should be avoided as much as possible. Organized urgent care will continue for children who are disadvantaged or in a vulnerable circumstance, or whose parents work in a critical job.

    The OMT said it has not yet found evidence proving that children are more susceptible to contracting the B117 mutation of the COVID-19 infection than the variant more common to the Netherlands, but it also said there were still too many unknown factors. Previously, Rutte said that the decision to reopen schools early would be primarily based on research into the spread of the B117 variant, a more contagious version of the coronavirus which quickly spread through the United Kingdom.

    After an outbreak at a schools near Rotterdam, a study looking at B117 infections among residents of Lansingerland, Zuid-Holland was being carried out by the Erasmus Medical Center, the GGD municipal health service there, and public health agency RIVM. That study began over a week ago.

    “There are also too many concerns about the number of infections in the Netherlands and the spread of new variants of the virus in society,” the government said in its statement. “The opening of primary education and childcare will be included in the reconsideration of all lockdown measures, which apply until at least 8 February.” Secondary schools were already included on the list of locations closed up to that date.

  • Now that the schools remain closed for longer, the situation for parents working at home is becoming untenable and ‘corona leave’ must be introduced, the AWVN employers’ association told NU.nl on Monday. Employees who have to go to work, but are not allowed to do so because they are in quarantine, should also be able to rely on it.How this should work exactly is a matter of customization, according to the AWVN. “All kinds of variations are possible. But something has to be done now,” said a spokesman.

    According to the AWVN, combining working from home with teaching children increasingly leads to stress and tension among employees. “Now that the schools remain closed for longer, it is clear that this problem will not resolve itself. This week there are talks between the unions, employers and the government about a form of leave.”

    Of course, if employees take leave, they cannot work. “But then it is flexible. Then you can look at what times people can or cannot work. For example, it is not convenient to have a meeting in the morning when a child needs the parent’s attention.” Time off in combination with other working hours could help, the employers’ association thinks.

    Corona leave should also apply to quarantine cases as far as employers are concerned. “Of course there are also a lot of people who have to go to work to do that. But increasingly they cannot come because they have corona or have been in contact with someone who has it.”

    In such cases, the employees are not allowed to report sick, this is only allowed if you are really sick, and then the employer pays for the costs. “Or people have to take leave.” But who ultimately has to pay for the desired corona leave? “The question is whether the government can contribute to this in the context of crisis management,” says the AWVN spokesperson.

  • Local bookstores saw their turnover almost double in recent days compared to figures from previous lockdown weeks, book umbrella CPNB confirmed, thanks to a campaign that was launched last week to rescue small bookstores from the crisis.Bookshop owners were pleasantly surprised when on kick-off day last Thursday online orders started coming in, in some cases at a rate of every couple of minutes. Bookstores in Haarlem told the local newspaper that considerably less loss is being made than in recent times. The CPNB confirms that this applies to the whole of the Netherlands.

    More than two hundred authors have been made statements on their social media as well, to buy books through the websites of ailing local bookstores rather than major sales websites.

    The CPNB says it is very happy with the success of the campaign, but above all hopes that the effect will be permanent. “We hope that readers will continue to find their way to local bookstores, even if the lockdown continues for weeks longer than it is now,” said a spokesman.

Update on Dujat & Members

  • As of this year, the Cobra Museum of Modern Art in Amstelveen has joined our network as a new member. Welcome!

    Additionally we are happy to announce that we will once again celebrate culture in the upcoming second edition of last year’s Online Cultural Event, which will take place in the morning of 18 February 2021. Save the date! We and our cultural members look forward to welcoming you.

    As announced earlier, the workshop that was originally planned that day was postponed until 17 August.

  • 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.nlNOSTelegraafJapanTodayNHKKyodo News