Weekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 5, 2021

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Update on Japan

  • On Tuesday 2 February, Prime Minister Suga made the announcement that Japan will extend a state of emergency in Tokyo and other regions for another month until 7 March, seeking to keep the upper hand over a COVID-19 outbreak even as daily case numbers begin to edge down. The current state of emergency was originally scheduled to end on 7 February. The announcement was made after a meeting of an expert coronavirus response panel Tuesday, and was clarified later in a live press conference on Tuesday evening.”We’ll respond with a sense of urgency based on the medical situation and virus spread,” Kato Katsunobu, chief cabinet secretary, told reporters. “The number of new coronavirus cases is falling, but caution is still needed,” Kato said, adding that hospitals remained full and the death rate had not fallen.Japan has reported a total of 391,618 COVID-19 cases, including 5,832 deaths. Suga and his government remain determined to host the delayed 2020 Summer Olympics, currently scheduled for July-August, despite the resurgence of the virus in Japan.Under the current state of emergency, restaurants and bars are requested to trade for shorter hours and people encouraged to stay home as much as possible. The Nikkei daily newspaper reported that gyms, cinemas and karaoke establishments could be added if new daily infections in Tokyo rise above 1,000 for several consecutive days. Broadcaster NHK said one prefecture, Tochigi, will be omitted from the extension, which could be lifted earlier if the situation improves.With Japan behind other nations rolling out vaccination programs, the government has pledged to start inoculating medical workers at the end of February. NHK reported on Tuesday that approval for the Pfizer vaccine could come as early as 12 February.

    Support for Suga’s government has been battered by disapproval of his handling of the pandemic, a situation not helped when several ruling coalition lawmakers admitted to flouting rules by visiting hostess clubs and bars late at night. One resigned his seat on Monday and three others left Suga’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

  • Japan has no plans to repatriate its nationals from Myanmar, a foreign ministry official said on Monday, after Myanmar’s military seized power from a democratically elected civilian government and arrested its leader Aung San Suu Kyi.Myanmar’s army declared a state of emergency on Monday and said it had detained senior government leaders, accusing Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) of winning a landslide victory in the 8 November vote through “election fraud”.There are an estimated 3,500 Japanese in Myanmar, but because of the coronavirus pandemic, Tokyo had been advising citizens to put off travel there, said the Foreign Ministry official, who asked to remain unidentified, adding there are no current plans to change that advisory.Chief cabinet secretary Kato Katsunobu said the government was closely watching the situation and would do everything possible to ensure the safety of Japanese citizens. “At this point there are no reports of any clashes, but we’ll update information and take measures as needed,” he told a news conference. “Japan believes it is important for the parties to solve problems peacefully through dialogue in accordance with the democratic process,” he added.Japan and Myanmar have long had close ties, with Tokyo a major aid donor over the years and scores of firms engaged in business activities there. The Japanese embassy in Myanmar posted a message on the Foreign Ministry’s website, saying that while the situation in the country at this point did not appear to be one that would involve ordinary people, people should exercise caution. “We encourage people to stay inside and refrain from going out unless absolutely essential,” it added.

    Meanwhile, hundreds of Burmese protesters holding portraits of Aung San Suu Kyi gathered in Tokyo on Monday to protest against the detention of the country’s leaders. The demonstrators, wearing face masks and carrying flags, stood outside the United Nations University in downtown Tokyo and called on the international body to further condemn the Myanmar military’s actions. One of the protest organizers said nearly 800 people attended the demonstration on Monday.

  • Japan has asked the European Union for cooperation in its efforts to secure a stable supply of coronavirus vaccines from the bloc. Ministers from Japan and the EU held a video conference on Monday. The meeting is held regularly to discuss trade issues, based on the Economic Partnership Agreement which came into effect in 2019.Last month, the EU announced export controls on COVID-19 vaccines manufactured in the bloc. Manufacturers shipping to non-EU markets now have to declare where vaccines will be exported and obtain authorization in advance.During the meeting, Japanese Foreign Minister Motegi Toshimitsu said that he does not want the measure to impact planned vaccine supplies from EU countries to Japan. European Commissioner for Trade, Valdis Dombrovskis, expressed his understanding of Japan’s concern. He said that due to their friendly ties, the EU will do all it can to ensure vaccines will be delivered to Japan smoothly, as promised under contract with manufacturers.
  • Japan’s lower house on Monday passed bills to introduce fines for people and businesses failing to comply with the country’s measures for preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus.The Liberal Democratic Party led by Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide backed down on a controversial proposal to imprison COVID-19 patients who refuse to be hospitalized after facing criticism from the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party that such a step would be excessive. The legislation also allows designation of a precursor situation to a state of emergency in which special measures to combat the spread of the virus can be taken.Nishimura Yasutoshi, minister in charge of the country’s coronavirus response, told a lower house panel that the government is considering applying the special measures in a Stage 3 situation in its four-point scale, in which infection cases surge, but may consider doing so even in Stage 2 if a rapid spread is feared.Parliament began deliberations on the necessary revisions to the infectious diseases law and the coronavirus special measures law Friday and is set to enact the legislation Wednesday along with the resolution.The bill on the infectious disease law calls for introducing fines of up to 500,000 yen for COVID-19 patients resisting hospitalization and 300,000 yen for those who fail to participate in epidemiological surveys by health authorities.

    The government had originally sought to introduce a prison sentence of up to one year or a maximum fine of 1 million yen for people who refuse to be hospitalized after testing positive for the coronavirus, and a fine of up to 500,000 yen for those who do not cooperate with epidemiological surveys.

    However last week, Japan’s ruling party agreed to scrap the plan to make it a criminal offense, ceding to opposition criticism that the punishment was too harsh. The introduction of a prison sentence of up to one year had been part of Prime Minister Suga’s efforts to bolster the government’s ability to fight a recent surge in infections.

    The other bill on the coronavirus special measures law also calls for fines of up to 300,000 yen for restaurants and bars that do not cooperate with orders to shorten their operating hours under a state of emergency and up to 200,000 yen for those not cooperating in a precursor situation categorized as just below a state of emergency.

    The government had been planning to impose fines of up to 500,000 yen in the former scenario and 300,000 yen in the latter. The additional resolution also calls for only requesting businesses to cut operating hours and not to request closures or people to refrain from going outside altogether.

  • Japan Airlines said Monday it forecasts a larger-than-expected annual net loss of 300 billion yen, as the aviation industry continues to struggle from the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. Japan’s second-largest carrier said it projected the net loss for the year ending March 2021, up from its previous forecast of 240-270 billion yen.”Severe worldwide restrictions on international travel have caused international passenger demand to virtually disappear,” it said in a statement. “Many countries and areas are suffering again from the rebound of the (virus’s) spread, which makes the recovery of international passenger demand hard to foresee.”JAL suffered a net loss of 212.7 billion yen in the April-December period, plunging from a 74.8 billion yen profit for the same period a year before. It posted sales of 356.5 billion yen for the same period, a drop of a third from sales figures of 1.1 trillion yen the previous year.Last week, its rival ANA Holdings maintained its forecast for a record $4.9 billion net loss this financial year. ANA, Japan’s biggest airline, announced nine-month net losses of 309.6 billion yen — a record, and a sharp drop from the 86.4 billion yen in profit it logged in the same period the previous year. But ANA’s executive vice-president and chief financial officer said their “recovery is underway.”In October, ANA announced a major restructuring plan, having already announced it would halt recruitment for 2021/22, and not replace the approximately 3,000 workers who retire every year. The Nikkei Business Daily said on Monday that about 1,000 Japan Airlines staff are being transferred to companies outside the JAL group as it weathers the effects of the pandemic.

    Japan’s airlines had expected a bumper year in 2020, when the Tokyo Olympics were due to be held and tourist numbers were expected to break records. The Games are now scheduled to open in July, but with rising new infections there are doubts about whether that will be feasible and if foreign spectators will be allowed.

  • The operator of clothing chain Uniqlo says it will reduce carbon dioxide emissions from its factory and other activities to virtually zero by 2050. Fast Retailing announced the carbon neutrality goal and measures to achieve it at an online news conference on Tuesday.He plans to install solar panels on stores to increase the use of renewable energy, and reduce electricity consumption at factories where production is outsourced. The firm also plans to accelerate efforts to improve the efficiency of logistics such as clothing delivery.This is the first time Fast Retailing has announced a numerical target for carbon dioxide emissions. The firm plans to formulate specific plans and announce them this year.Yanai Tadashi, chairman and president of Fast Retailing, said he has a sense of crisis that the Earth will end this generation if environmental destruction continues. He said his firm will act in earnest to become a company that helps improve society.On Tuesday, a panel from Japan’s Environment Ministry also resumed talks on carbon pricing, which was the first time the experts have discussed the matter in about 18 months because of the coronavirus pandemic. Carbon pricing is a system under which companies and households would bear the costs based on their carbon emissions.

    Environment Minister Koizumi Shinjiro said for Japan to realize a carbon-neutral society by 2050, he thinks carbon pricing that can lead to economic growth is essential. Koizumi added that in-depth discussions are needed to hear views both for and against.

    The panel discussed the characteristics and problems of the emissions trading system including a carbon tax. They said if new subsidies funded by the carbon tax are introduced, it would promote corporate technological innovations and lead to growth.

    There also said that discussions are needed on the impact the system could have on people’s lives and corporate global competitiveness as economic activities remain slow amid the pandemic. The panel hopes to compile its views on carbon pricing by the end of the year.

The first 700 people (elderly over 85 years old) get vaccinated at the new location at Jaarbeurs Utrecht on Tuesday 2 February.

Update on the Netherlands

  • Another 3,280 coronavirus cases were reported by the public health agency RIVM on Monday 1 February, which was the lowest daily figure since 1 October. In recent days the rate of decline has accelerated to more than 18% week on week, prompting speculation that lockdown restrictions will start to be lifted in the second week of February.However, the number of infections per 100,000 people is still around three times the ‘alert level’ of 7 that is supposed to trigger restrictions and all 25 health board regions are classed as ‘very severe’ on the government’s risk scale. The number of patients at the hospital with coronavirus increased by 61 to 2,290, following the pattern of higher hospital admissions after the weekend, while 639 people were being treated in intensive care, which was 7 fewer than on Sunday.Another 27 deaths from COVID-19 were reported on Monday, against a weekly average of 65. A week ago the average figure was 76. Infections in nursing homes are also declining: 647 locations reported at least one new case in the last 14 days, compared to 734 a week ago. Around half of all infections are now caused by the B-117 strain, first detected in the UK, which arrived in the Netherlands in December.In a letter to parliament the cabinet said that the so-called ‘British variant’ was 49% more infectious than previous strains, with an R value of 1.27 in mid-January. If the reproductive marker is above 1 it signifies that the virus is spreading faster than people are recovering.
  • There is very little room to ease the current lockdown restrictions meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus, outgoing Minister Hugo de Jonge of Public Health said on Monday after meeting with the mayors on the security Council. A third wave of coronavirus infections is coming, “and that means you have to be very careful with the first steps you take,” he said, NU.nl reports.De Jonge and Prime Minister Mark Rutte will hold a press conference on Tuesday evening to update the Dutch population on the state of affairs around the pandemic. De Jonge warned against thinking of relaxations being announced, because according to him there is “very little reason” for this.On Sunday, the government already said that primary schools and daycare facilities will be allowed to open from 8 February. There are also reports that curfew will be lifted from 10 February if infections continue to fall, and that shops and restaurants will be allowed to offer pickup services from next week, though will have to remain closed for on-site shopping until early March.While the number of daily coronavirus infections is falling, the government announced that an estimated half of them are now due to the more contagious B117 strain. This strain, first identified in the United Kingdom, is therefore gaining ground despite the current lockdown restrictions. And epidemiologists therefore warn against relaxing measures too soon, NOS reports.”I think it is still a bit early. We are in a very uncertain time and see the same thing in all countries around us: the British variant has a higher reproduction number with the same measures,” pediatrician epidemiologist Patricia Bruijning of University Medical Center Utrecht said to the broadcaster. “With the current measures it is already complicated to get the R-number below 1, let alone if you are going to relax them.”

    According to Bruijning, opening primary schools alone and keeping all other measures in place is a better idea. “Primary schools are now opening with a much more extensive package of measures than before,” she said. “The expectation is that we will be able to limit the spread in schools and that the effect on of reopening on the R-number will remain limited, but we cannot be sure. It has to be proven in practice.”

    Alma Tostmann, epidemiologist at Radboud UMC, thinks that the government should postpone relaxing the measures by a week or two. “Then you lift it over spring break and you can see how things are going.”

    Field epidemiologist and microbiologist Amrish Baidjoe, affiliated with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, also believes the lockdown should remain as-is for a while. “The proportion of the British variant is increasing, the South African and Brazilian variants are additional reason to be careful.”

  • About 26,500 employees in acute care have gotten their second vaccination, the National Network Acute Care (LNAZ) reported on Monday. In the first round, more than 40,000 acute care employees received an injection. These are employees of the intensive care (ic), emergency department (A&E), ambulance and the COVID department.In addition, the hospitals have now given a first injection to seven thousand general practitioners and employees of out-of-hours GP services. This week, more vaccines will become available for this group and another eight thousand GPs will receive a first vaccination.Monday evening it turned out that the new method used by the government to calculate the number of corona vaccines administered so far caused thousands of injections to be counted twice. With an update of the corona dashboard, the error has been corrected and the total figure comes to 343,881 vaccinations.On Tuesday morning, another large vaccination location was opened at the Jaarbeurs in Utrecht. Today the first 700 people can go there. This concerns independently living elderly people over 85 years old.
  • From 2 February, an entry ban will be in place for people that travel from Japan to the Netherlands. You are strongly advised not to travel to the Netherlands. Whether you can travel to the Netherlands depends on your situation. Check here to see if you may travel and what conditions apply: http://nlinjp.com/NLtravelBefore 23 January, there were more categories of people who were exempt from the EU entry ban. The list of exemption categories for the EU entry ban for the Netherlands has now been modified, as a result of the current developments concerning the situation with COVID-19 in the Netherlands and the rest of the world.The following exemptions from the EU entry ban have been suspended:- Business travellers
    – Students who wish to come to the Netherlands to study for a period of less than three months
    – Highly skilled migrants who wish to come to the Netherlands for work for a period of less than three months
    – Professionals in the cultural and creative sectors
    – Non-Dutch nationals who fall under the arrangement for partners in a long-distance relationship.For more information, please refer to the website of the Dutch government.
  • Many retail businesses say they will not be able to survive much longer with the strict lockdown restrictions that have been in place for months. About two-thirds of stores say they have will have to close their doors within the next two months should the situation not improve, according to a study by the retailers’ union INretail, ANP reports. “Growers, starters and large chains suffer additionally because they fall outside of help packages and often are faced with restrictions”, the INretail said according to the news wire.The light at the end of the tunnel would be if the government allows non-essential stores to open a pick-up service for orders at their stores. INretail already called for such a strategy multiple times since retail stores had to close in December. They hope that pick-up in stores as well as regulated on-site shopping will receive a green light this week. The Detailhandel Nederland supports their call. The council says that “pickups do not pose an infection risk.”
  • The municipality of Amsterdam is looking into buying social rental homes from housing corporations in order to make sure they stay on the market as affordable rental housing, a spokesperson for Housing alderman Laurens Ivens confirmed to NOS after reports in Het Parool.Housing corporations have been selling homes to investors and private individuals for some time now, in order to fund investments in new construction. Amsterdam is investigating whether the municipality can buy these homes. “In this way, it can be prevented that housing corporation houses disappear forever into the segment of the free sector. Instead of social housing being privatized, they come into municipal hands with which we can control their use for the long term,” Ivens said in a letter to the city council.The city expects that Amsterdam corporations will sell around a thousand homes per year in the coming period. If the municipality were to buy those homes, it would be an annual investment of 340 million euros at an average price of 340,000 euros per home. Ivens said that Amsterdam is going further than any other Dutch municipality with this step. But there are no other options, he said to Het Parool.This is not a step taken lightly and the municipality will first thoroughly investigate the pros and cons, Ivens said. This includes investigating the financial consequences of the municipality buying homes at market price with the goal of renting them out at social-housing price, and whether it is desirable for the municipality to have a dual role as landlord and government.
  • The majority of young adults believe there should be more contraceptives for men. 65% of respondents believe that the responsibility to not get pregnant should be shared equally by both partners, according to a survey by 3Vraagt, part of the EenVandaag regular opinion panel.  In total, 3500 people aged between 16 and 34 took part in the survey. 87% said that a couple should share the responsibility to avoid an unplanned pregnancy.From the study, it seems that both men and women are looking forward to scientific advancements in the possibility of contraceptives for men. 88% of the women claim to trust their male partner with taking an anti-baby pill should it arrive on the market.Men also expressed the need for more control over when they choose to have children. “A contraceptive for men would give me an extra sense of security. I would be my own boss”, says one participant.93% of female respondents and 77% of male respondents believe that contraceptives should be covered by the government in basic health insurance. Currently, only contraceptives for girls under 18 are compensated by the government.A third of all men said they help pay for their female partner’s contraceptives. 40% of the men who do not pay for their partner’s contraceptives said they never even thought about sharing the costs.

Update on Dujat & Members

  • Next week on Wednesday 10 February, we organize a webinar about Dutch compliance novelties on 10 February 2020 together with Houthoff. At the webinar, Houthoff experts Kyoko Tollenaar and Jeroen Van Mourik will address the latest compliance challenges and opportunities.Cecile Eijsink-Bonnier, representative for Houthoff in Tokyo, will elaborate the connection between Houthoff and Japan. Kyoko will provide a brief overview of who is considered to be a UBO and what this means for Dutch entities. Jeroen will provide a short summary of the obligations under the Directive and what this means for Dutch entities of Japanese companies in practice.We welcome you to register you here and look forward to seeing you at the webinar!
  • 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.nlNOSGovernment.nlJapanTodayNHK