Weekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 46, 2020

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Imperial celebration for crown prince proclamation | View ceremony

Update on Japan

  • On Tuesday 10 November, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government reported 293 new cases of the coronavirus, up 136 from Monday. The number is the result of 3,540 tests conducted on 7 November. The tally brought Tokyo’s cumulative total to 33,060.By age group, the most cases were people in their 20s (70), followed by 60 in their 30s and 53 in their 40s. The number of infected people in Tokyo with severe symptoms was 33, two down from Monday, health officials said.Nationwide, the number of reported cases was 1,270. After Tokyo, the prefectures with the most cases were Osaka (226), Hokkaido (166), Aichi (129), Kanagawa (99), Saitama (67), Hyogo (60), Chiba (48) and Okinawa (25). Nine deaths were reported nationwide.

    It was the first time that Hokkaido confirmed 200 new daily coronavirus cases on Monday, reaching that level for the first time since the outbreak of infections, local government officials said. With infections in Hokkaido exceeding more than 100 for the fourth straight day through Sunday, the latest figure bought the prefecture’s cumulative total to 4,198. Health experts said cold weather was likely responsible for the increase.

    “We need to deal with the situation with maximum vigilance,” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said at an executive meeting of his Liberal Democratic Party in Tokyo, after the number of new daily coronavirus cases in the country topped 1,000 on Thursday for the first time in more than two months and exceeded that level for three straight days through Saturday.

    A government subcommittee made up of health experts presented a set of proposals calling on authorities to step up measures against clusters of infections and strengthen quarantine procedures. Shigeru Omi, head of the panel, warned that the rise in the number of infections “could drastically change” if the proposals, which also included increasing the amount of multilingual information for foreign communities, are not adequately put in place.

    In response to the recent surge of infections in Hokkaido, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato hinted at the possibility of excluding the popular tourist destination from the central government’s domestic travel promotion campaign, depending on the outcome of the subcommittee’s discussions. The experts have said that the rising infections in Hokkaido and other northern areas could be the result of people spending time in poorly ventilated rooms as temperatures drop.

    On Saturday, the Hokkaido government raised its own five-level pandemic alert one step to the third most severe, meaning stronger measures are needed to prevent the medical system from experiencing increasing and continuous strain. The prefectural government has called for nightlife establishments, such as hostess bars and host clubs, in the entertainment district of the capital Sapporo not to operate from 22:00 until 5:00, the following morning.

    Under the measure introduced the same day that will remain in place through 27 November, restaurants are not asked to shorten their business hours but are requested to refrain from serving alcohol after 22:00.

  • Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will oversee a new era of diplomacy with United States president-elect Joe Biden. After posting congratulatory tweets over the weekend, he is offering further enthusiasm toward the new administration that will be sworn in at the start of next year.“Japan and the United States are allies that share freedom, democracy and universal values,” Suga told reporters at his Tokyo office on Monday. ”I would like to work with the nation to further strengthen the Japan-US alliance and ensure peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.”Suga added that he plans to phone or visit the US for a meeting with the president-elect. The Japanese leader is expected to aim to build a personal relationship of trust with Biden, as his predecessor Abe Shinzo did with President Donald Trump.

    It is understood that the Japanese government and ruling party officials are hoping the two countries can deepen their partnership to deal with global challenges, including the coronavirus pandemic and climate change. Protectionism and other Trump administration policies led to disruption of global unity on occasions such as at Group of Seven meetings. But Biden appears willing to place a greater emphasis on international cooperation and alliances.

  • Emperor Naruhito’s younger brother, Crown Prince Fumihito, was formally sworn in as first in line to the Chrysanthemum Throne in a traditional palace ritual Sunday that had been postponed for seven months and scaled down due to the coronavirus pandemic.The ceremony for the 54-year-old crown prince, better known as Prince Akishino, concludes a series of imperial succession rituals that began in May last year when Naruhito ascended to the throne after their 86-year-old father Akihito abdicated.Inside the palace’s most prestigious Pine Room, Naruhito, 60, declared that his younger brother is now officially the crown prince who is first in line to succeed the throne of the world’s oldest monarchy.

    “I hereby declare in and outside of the country that prince Fumihito is now the crown prince,” said Naruhito, in his reddish brown robe and a headdress. Fumihito, in an orange robe and accompanied by his wife, Crown Princess Kiko, pledged in response: “I deeply acknowledge my responsibilities as crown prince and carry out my duties.”

    The ritual was scaled down from the original 350 to about 50 attendants that included Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and other top government officials, as well as prefectural representatives and select foreign dignitaries. In a separate, closed ceremony later Sunday, Fumihito inherited an imperial sword symbolizing his status as crown prince.

    Sunday’s proclamation for the crown prince paves the way for the government to start discussing what to do with the dire shortage of heirs. Naruhito’s succession left only two younger men in line for the throne — Fumihito and his 14-year-old son, Hisahito. Naruhito’s 18-year-old daughter, Aiko, and the crown prince’s two daughters Mako and Kako are not in line because they are women.

    Japan’s Imperial House Law, largely based on pre-war constitution, does not allow a female emperor and bars women when they marry commoners. The government in 2005 considered the possibility of female emperors, but the discussion halted as soon as Hisahito was born the following year. Surveys have shown that most Japanese support having female emperors, as Aiko has become increasingly popular.

    Suga recently said his government will begin studying ways to secure a stable imperial succession after the crown prince’s proclamation. Official duties increased during the reign of hugely popular former emperor Akihito, who actively interacted with the public, including visiting disaster-hit areas to console residents.

    Fumihito, one of the outspoken members of the imperial family, has expressed his views on how the family should adapt to modern times. He has said he believed royal duties can be shared equally regardless of gender, though he declined to comment on whether female emperors should be allowed. The imperial family currently has 13 women, including 6 who could marry and lose their royal status in coming years.

  • International gymnastic officials have shared information on anti-coronavirus measures taken at their recent event with Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic organizers.The Friendship and Solidarity Competition in Tokyo on Sunday was the first international meet for an Olympic sport held in Japan since the pandemic began. Gymnasts from Japan, the United States, Russia and China took part. They were required to take a PCR test every day and travel on special buses, and were not allowed to go anywhere except their hotels and the event venue.On Tuesday, officials from the International Gymnastics Federation and the Tokyo organizing committee met in Tokyo. They reportedly confirmed the need to communicate with athletes before events through sports organizations to ensure that they follow rules, such as restrictions on their conduct. They also discussed the importance of working with businesses, including transport and lodging firms.

    Watanabe Morinari, the President of the International Gymnastics Federation, referred to an appeal by Japanese Olympic gold medalist Uchimura Kohei asking people to look for ways to hold the Games, instead of giving them up due to the pandemic. Watanabe stressed that safety measures should be taken in such a way as to ease athletes’ worries about infection.

    Tokyo Games’ delivery officer Nakamura Hidemasa said the recent event provided a good example of how to operate a competition in the pandemic.

  • Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Tuesday instructed cabinet ministers to compile a third supplementary budget for fiscal 2020 and draw up a fresh economic stimulus package to help the economy weather the novel coronavirus pandemic.The extra budget for the year through March will fund a likely extension of the government’s Go To Travel subsidy campaign beyond late January to continue underpinning the tourism sector while stimulating consumption and steps to help businesses maintain employment, according to government sources. Suga told his Cabinet members to “ensure the economy continues to pick up and bring it back to a growth path led by private demand,” according to the government.Some lawmakers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner Komeito have said the upcoming budget will amount to between 10 trillion yen (€81 billion) and 15 trillion yen. In addition to counter measures against the virus spread, Suga suggested the budget will include assistance for digital transformation and efforts to slash greenhouse gas emissions, as well as steps to promote migration from urban to rural areas.

    The supplementary budget is also expected to provide funding to promote companies’ digitalization and investment in strengthening supply chains, improve the country’s disaster preparedness and increase financial support for couples undergoing fertility treatment.

    The draft extra budget is likely to be submitted to next year’s ordinary Diet session convening in January, during which the initial budget for the next fiscal year from April will also be discussed. Part of the new measures in the stimulus package will be funded by the fiscal 2021 budget, according to the sources.

    “Under the idea of a so-called 15-month budget, we’ll compile the third extra budget and the fiscal 2021 initial budget as a unified one,” Finance Minister Taro Aso told a press conference, but he refrained from referring to their scale.

    For the current fiscal year, parliament has already enacted two supplementary budgets totaling about 57 trillion yen for anti-virus stimulus measures under the administration of Suga’s predecessor Shinzo Abe, with issuance of nearly 46 trillion yen of deficit-covering bonds. Among the past measures were 100,000 yen cash handouts to all 126 million residents in Japan.

    The government set aside a total of 11.5 trillion yen in reserve funds under the two extra budgets to fight the coronavirus pandemic. About 7.3 trillion yen remains and the money is expected to be reoriented to the new supplementary budget, the sources said.

  • The Lower House of Japan’s Diet has begun deliberating on a bill to revise the preventive vaccination law to secure vaccines for the coronavirus. The bill would make coronavirus vaccinations free. If the vaccines are found to cause health problems, the government will pay for treatment.In Tuesday’s plenary session of the lower chamber, a lawmaker from the governing Liberal Democratic Party sought an update on negotiations being conducted with vaccine manufacturers abroad.Health minister Tamura Norihisa replied that the government has agreed with three foreign pharmaceutical firms to receive a total 290 million doses of vaccines they may develop. He added that the government is working vigorously to support research and negotiate with both domestic and foreign manufacturers to secure enough supplies for everyone in Japan in the first half of next year. A lawmaker from the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party asked about the risks and benefits of using vaccines with little accumulated data.

    Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide responded that while vaccines prevent infection, it is difficult to avoid harmful side effects completely, however rare they may be. He said the government prioritizes safety and efficacy, and that it will use only vaccines that have been thoroughly screened and authorized based on treatment data and the latest scientific findings. The bill is expected to be passed during the current Diet session.

  • Japan’s top business lobby says it wants to raise the percentage of women executives in the country to at least 30%  in the next 10 years. It is the first time for the Japan Business Federation, known as Keidanren, to announce a long-term numeric target.Keidanren says significantly increasing the number of women in senior roles would help create a society with diverse career options. It is also calling for more focused investments in digital technologies to spur new industries in fields such as healthcare and education.Keidanren also proposes expanding the use of renewable energy and the promotion of nuclear power generation. It says work will need to begin over the next 10 years on new types of safe nuclear plants. Keidanren says this will help achieve the government’s goal of cutting greenhouse-gas emissions effectively to zero by 2050.
The XL test street in Martiniplaza in Groningen was put into use on Monday afternoon | DVHN

Update on the Netherlands

  • Last Sunday, for the first time since 9 October fewer than 6,000 people were confirmed positive for the coronavirus according to daily statistics released by the RIVM. The Dutch public health agency said that 5,703 people tested positive for the viral infection, the lowest figure in over a month. The tally was nearly 15% lower than Saturday’s total, and 35% below figures reported a week earlier.About 4,709 more people tested positive for the virus according to RIVM reports on Monday, which continued a week-long overall trend of declining infection figures.It marked another substantial 17% drop compared to Sunday’s total, and was 43% lower versus figures released a week ago. The consistent decreases has led to political speculation that no region in the Netherlands will be placed under a stricter lockdown this week.

    Rotterdam (344), Amsterdam (220), and The Hague (150) were the three cities with the most newly infected residents in Monday’s statistical update. Rotterdam improved by nearly a third compared to a week ago, with Amsterdam posting a 40% drop. In The Hague, the total fell by 46%. The seven day averages in the three cities were 457 in Rotterdam, 337 in Amsterdam, and 230 in The Hague.

    At the same time, the total number of people hospitalized for the coronavirus disease rose on Monday for the first time in six days. The total stood at 2,317, meaning hospitals were treating 22 more patients compared to Sunday afternoon. Still, it was almost 9% lower than the Covid-19 hospital total a week ago.

    The “very slight increase” was “nothing to worry about,” said Ernst Kuipers, the head of the Dutch acute care providers network, during a press conference on Monday. “The decline was so fast that you can expect it to bounce.”

  • At the end of November – early December, twenty large test locations spread across the Netherlands will be put into use. There will be eight XL test streets and an additional twelve L test streets, the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS) announced on Friday. Four large test locations will be built in Amsterdam.The large test streets in Amsterdam will be opened at the RAI, in Sloterdijk and in the Zuidoost and Noord districts. Other large test locations will be in Vijfhuizen, at Schiphol, Rotterdam, at Rotterdam The Hague Airport, the Jaarbeurs in Utrecht, MartiniPlaza in Groningen, the Bread Factory in Rijswijk, Eindhoven and in the vicinity of Arnhem and Nijmegen. The test site in MartiniPlaza, Groningen was already opened on Monday afternoon.Large test locations must also be built in Twente, South Limburg, West Brabant, IJsselland, Zeeland, Drenthe and Friesland, but it is not yet known where these will be located. The regular PCR test and rapid tests are used in all major test lanes.

    At the XL test lanes, in fact many test lanes in one location, more than a hundred thousand people can be tested for the corona virus every day. This doubles the current test capacity. Just as with a normal test street, anyone with complaints can go to an XL test street.

    At the end of October, Minister Hugo de Jonge of Public Health announced that there was talk about XL test streets around large cities, but the locations were not yet fixed. The ministry wants every Dutch person to be able to travel to a test location within 45 minutes.

    During the first weeks, the test streets are manned by a thousand defense officers. For this, they will get a one-day training. After that, the work will be taken over by employees of the GGD or hired staff. However, the GGD remains responsible for who can be tested at which location and for the source and contact investigation after a positive result.

  • Pharmaceutical company Pfizer reported positive results in the third test phase of its vaccine against the coronavirus. According to the American company, the first results in the third phase show that the vaccine is effective in more than 90 percent of the cases. The vaccine is being developed in collaboration with the German biotech company BioNTech.”It’s a great day for science and humanity,” said Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla in a press release. “These initial results are early evidence that our vaccine can prevent covid-19 infection.” He’s talking about a milestone.Nearly 44,000 people are participating in the phase 3 trial and about 39,000 of them have now received two doses of the vaccine. After 94 people had developed covid-19, it was examined whether those people received the candidate vaccine or a placebo. The pharmaceutical company now concludes from this analysis that the vaccine is 90 percent effective. The study will continue until 164 participants have developed covid-19.

    The pharmaceutical company hopes to publish the interim research results within two weeks. After that, the company wants to submit an application to the US drug authority FDA to market the vaccine. The European medicines agency EMA is about access to the European market.

    Professor of Vaccinology at Utrecht University Cécile van Els, who is an immunologist at RIVM and also speaks on behalf of that institute, is delighted. “The vaccine has passed the first litmus test for efficacy.” To immediately add: “But the testing is not over yet, people are still being followed.

    Anke Huckriede, professor of vaccinology at the University of Groningen finds some restraint in order. “In the short term, this vaccine appears to be able to protect, but in the end the point is that the vaccine offers protection for at least six months, if not longer. Whether that is the case with this vaccine, we still have to wait and see. The data look very promising. ”

    The vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech gives the body instructions for the production of a protein that is characteristic of the coronavirus, against which an immune response is built up, explains Van Els. She also does not dare to say how long the defense works. “But usually you have at least a certain degree of immunity for a few years.” Whether the test subjects can no longer transmit the virus to others has not been tested. But without symptoms, such as coughing, the risk of infecting others is smaller, the professor emphasizes.

    Both Van Els and Huckriede state that the claimed effectiveness of the vaccine, with a percentage of 90, is very high. With a flu vaccine, for example, 40 to 50% is involved, says Van Els. “That vaccine is often used for the elderly, which makes it more difficult to achieve a high percentage.”

    Production of the vaccine has already started in anticipation of the definitive research results. Van Els: “The Netherlands is eyeing several vaccines, and Pfizer is one of them.”

    Pfizer, she says, is already stocking up for when they get approval. “I think it is very optimistic for the end of this year, I would say at the end of the first quarter of next year, provided there are no setbacks.” Huckriede makes a similar estimate of when the vaccine will be available. She points out that the company can already produce 50 million doses for this year. Huckriede thinks the vaccine will hit the US market first, and the European market soon after. “I expect sometime in the spring, perhaps early spring, that the first people in the Netherlands will receive the vaccine.”

  • NS is increasing their train fares: for the second class, these will be on average 1.5% more expensive from 1 January. The price for first class rises by an average of 2.6%, NS (Dutch Railways) reports.The price increase is a correction for expected inflation, the company states. The costs that the NS incurs for maintenance of trains, for example, become more expensive due to inflation. The fares for first class are rising a little more this time, because prices have not increased in the past two years, according to the rail carrier.The plan is to increase the rate for public transport bicycles from 3.85 euros to 3.95 euros per 24 hours. That proposal has been submitted to interest groups for travelers. International train journeys will also be slightly more expensive next year: an average of 1%.

    Last week, the Dutch Railways indicated that slightly fewer trains will be running in the coming period due to the corona crisis. Since this week, phases have been phased out to 90% of the normal timetable. Since the stricter corona measures, the rail carrier has far fewer passengers and therefore fewer trains are needed, according to the Dutch Railways.

  • Retailers in the Netherlands want to start Black Friday discounts a week earlier and run them until the day itself on 27 November, in the hopes that this will prevent big crowds amid the coronavirus crisis, INretail said after surveying its members, ANP reports.Over the weekend, trade union FNV called on retailers to completely skip Black Friday this year, calling on employers to “not also put public health on sale”. But INretail is confident that the sector can handle Black Friday safely. “It is also primarily an online marketing phenomenon in our country. Consumers can therefore choose how they want to buy. Entrepreneurs actively respond to this, because many have a web shop as well as stores,” the sector organization said to ANP.According to INretail, many entrepreneurs are setting up discount campaigns in such a way to entice consumers to make their purchases on quieter days, and in non-peak times. Some 80% of retailers are also taking additional measures to prevent Covid-19 outbreaks, including even stricter door policies, mandatory face masks, and clearly visible hygiene measures. The INretail survey found that just less than half of non-food entrepreneurs in main shopping centers will have Black Friday specials this year.
  • In the night from Monday to Tuesday, the British House of Lords partially rejected Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s controversial Brexit law. Specifically, it concerns the parts that violate international law. This mainly concerns agreements about Northern Ireland, which London and the European Union have laid down in the Withdrawal Agreement.According to Johnson, the so-called internal market law is necessary to protect the internal movement of goods in the United Kingdom. He sees it as a “safety net” and “insurance policy” to preserve the political and economic integrity of the country in the absence of a trade deal with the EU.Johnson has acknowledged that the law violates international law. Many of his party members fear that this would put the UK’s international reputation at risk. Critics say the bill threatens to undermine peace in Northern Ireland. Johnson can now choose to delete the passages in question or keep them if the House of Commons re-examines the bill next month. He said earlier on Monday that the clauses in question constitute a “vital” safety net.

    Should the EU and UK negotiate a trade deal, the passages may no longer be necessary. The negotiations on this are in a final phase. There are some optimistic voices. Due to Brexit, the British are no longer bound by EU laws from 1 January 2021. In the Withdrawal Agreement, the EU retains control over trade with Northern Ireland, partly to prevent checks from being carried out at the border with EU Member State Ireland.

Update on Dujat & Members

  • What is the current status of negotiations and likelihood of deal? The expected impact of Brexit on the UK economy, trade with the EU, and on investments? Can we take any positives from Brexit?And more questions and answers will be discussed: join our upcoming Brexit Webinar next week on Tuesday 17 November, with presenters from Baker McKenzie, Jones Day and Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA). Invitations were sent out last week, contact us if you missed it or visit our event site and register.
  • Amity International School Amsterdam is delighted to announce that the school has been officially accredited as an IB PYP School.Starting in February 2018 as a Candidate School for the PYP, Amity Amsterdam has successfully developed and implemented the educational programme over the years to offer high quality teaching at the international school in Amstelveen.The PYP offers an inquiry-based, transdisciplinary curriculum framework that builds conceptual understanding. It is a student-centred approach to education for children aged 3-12. It reflects the best of educational research, thought leadership and experience derived from IB World Schools. (Link to full Press Release)
  • If your company has any news or updates to share in next week’s newsletter, let us know via 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.nlNOSDVHNJapanTodayKyodo NewsSankei NewsNHK