Weekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 51, 2020

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Public calligraphy performance by the chief priest of Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto, revealing the Kanji of the year 2020: Mitsu.

Update on Japan

  • On Tuesday 15 December, the Tokyo metropolitan government reported 460 new cases of the coronavirus, up 155 from Monday. The number is the result of 4,482 tests conducted on 12 December. The tally brought Tokyo’s cumulative total to 47,990.By age group, the highest number of cases were people in their 20s (125), followed by 91 in both their 30s, 71 in their 40s and 55 in their 50s. The number of infected people hospitalized with severe symptoms in Tokyo is 78, up five from Monday, health officials said.Nationwide, the number of reported cases as of 6:30 p.m. was 2,417. After Tokyo, the prefectures with the highest numbers were Osaka (306), Kanagawa (226), Aichi (216), Saitama (173), Hyogo (144), Chiba (119), Hokkaido (104), Hiroshima and Kyoto (71 each), Fukuoka (69), Miyagi (37), Kochi (36), Gifu (35), Kumamoto (31) and Gunma (25). Thirty-two coronavirus-related deaths were reported.

    Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide announced that the government will temporarily suspend its “Go To Travel” campaign across the country from 28 December to 11 January. The move is aimed at containing the spread of coronavirus infections during the year-end and New Year holidays.

    Suga made the announcement at a government taskforce meeting on Monday evening. The meeting was convened in response to calls by the coronavirus advisory panel that advised authorities to continue measures to exclude certain areas from the tourism campaign.

    Suga pointed out that the number of infections continues to rise nationwide. He said various indexes suggest that more regions are seeing a surge in new infection cases. The prime minister also said that those who are tackling the outbreak on the front lines, such as medical workers, are becoming more burdened.

    He stressed that the government will take maximum measures to ensure a good start to the New Year by preventing the further spread of the virus and reducing the burden on medical institutions.

    He also disclosed plans to halt subsidies for travel to Tokyo and Nagoya, the capital of Aichi Prefecture, until 27 December, and to call on residents of those cities to refrain from traveling. Osaka and Sapporo had already been excluded from that program due to rising infections there.

  • A medical center in Osaka Prefecture dedicated to treating seriously-ill COVID-19 cases began receiving patients on Tuesday. The facility in Sumiyoshi Ward, Osaka City opened with limited capacity as it has been struggling to hire enough nurses.The prefecture has been preparing the facility since August, for an anticipated increase in patients. Officials estimate that 130 nurses will be needed if all 30 beds at the center are occupied. But as of early December, only 50 nurses had joined the staff. Osaka is calling on the governors of other prefectures to send over nurses.Officials also asked the central government to dispatch nurses from the country’s Self-Defense Forces. Three SDF-nurses began working at the center on Tuesday. Osaka Prefecture said it is now likely to meet staffing requirements. The medical center will limit the number of patients it accepts to about five while it is training the nurses. It plans to expand the number as its staff members gain experience.

    Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Osaka Governor Yoshimura Hirofumi said he is grateful to many people that the center could open when hospital beds for seriously-ill patients are in short supply. He urged Osaka residents not to let their guard down against the virus, noting that reducing the number of infections is the utmost priority when medical resources are limited. Yoshimura added that he hopes all 30 beds will soon be available as operations get on track.

  • Japan will begin carrying out coronavirus vaccinations at facilities prepared by municipalities using reservation systems managed at the local level, the health ministry said Thursday.The plan was approved by a panel of experts ahead of the potential March start of the country’s mass vaccination program. The ministry said it plans to secure 10,500 freezers capable of storing vaccines, allowing them to be distributed across the country.The ministry said in addition to medical facilities, vaccinations should be carried out at public health centers, gymnasiums, event venues and shopping malls, adding those being administered the vaccine must make a reservation in advance with authorities in the cities, towns or villages in which they are registered as residents.

    As the soon to be available COVID-19 vaccines must be stored at low temperatures, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare will secure about 3,000 freezers with the capacity to store items at minus 75 C and about 7,500 freezers with a minus 20 C capability. It will also procure dry ice and cooler boxes for vaccination centers.

    The vaccine developed by U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech SE is required to be stored at minus 70 C or lower, while U.S. biotech firm Moderna Inc’s can be shipped and stored over a six-month period if kept in a standard freezer temperature of minus 20 C.

    As vaccination against the virus could begin as early as March in Japan, the ministry will ask municipalities to prepare necessary venues and ready systems to accept reservations. Japan has agreed with Pfizer, Moderna, and Britain’s AstraZeneca Plc to receive sufficient numbers of vaccine doses to cover the entire population and more, earmarking a budget of 671.4 billion yen (€5.3 billion) for that purpose.

    The Pfizer vaccine is projected to be delivered in batches of 1,000 doses and they need to be administered within approximately 10 days when stored in cooler boxes with dry ice. Local governments will discuss whether they should designate a vaccination date and time for residents of each region to avoid overcrowding at venues.

    The ministry is also planning to develop a system that will enable it to share information about stocks of vaccine doses at medical institutions with local governments and distributors, so as to help them avoid allocation problems as much as possible.

  • The growing availability of coronavirus vaccines is a “ray of hope” for hosting the Olympics next summer, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said Monday as Japan struggles with a new surge in infections. As host city, Tokyo will do “whatever it takes” to successfully achieve the games, which were postponed for a year until next July because of the pandemic, Koike said in an interview with The Associated Press.“A few vaccines are now being distributed and are actually being used. It’s a ray of hope,” she said, citing the beginning of vaccinations last week in Britain and the distribution of vaccines starting this week in the United States. I expect this will also become a ray of hope for the Olympics and Paralympics,” Koike said.Japan’s government has said it will secure enough vaccines to cover all citizens by next June. Even without a mandatory lockdown, Japan survived earlier coronavirus surges better than the U.S. and most countries in Europe. It issued non-binding stay-home and non-essential business closure requests in April and May and still managed to slow the pace of infections.
  • Japan’s worst-ever bird flu outbreak has spread to a new area and now affects almost 20% of the country’s 47 prefectures, with officials ordering mass cullings after poultry deaths on two farms.More than 370,000 head of poultry will be slaughtered and buried after avian influenza was discovered at two breeding farms in Mimasaka city in Okayama Prefecture in southwestern Japan, the agriculture ministry said on Friday.Highly pathogenic bird flu, a H5 subtype most likely brought by migrating birds from the Asia or Europe, has spread to nine of Japan’s 47 prefectures, with nearly 3 million birds culled to date, a record number.

    All farms in Japan have been ordered to disinfect facilities and check hygiene regimes, and ensure that nets to keep out wild birds are installed properly, agriculture ministry officials told Reuters this week.

    The government is calling for extra vigilance because of the growing number of infections in Japan and in Europe, which is in the grip of an outbreak. Japan has suspended poultry imports from seven countries, including Germany.

    Japan’s worst outbreak since at least 2016 started last month in Kagawa Prefecture in Shikoku. Japan had a broiler chicken population of 138 million head last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

  • AI-based technology for intensive care units has been unveiled at an online forum in Japan, as the number of seriously ill COVID-19 patients continues to rise. A committee of the Japanese Society of Intensive Care Medicine organized the event on Sunday. About 150 people took part. Many of them were healthcare workers involved in treating COVID-19 patients.A group from Yokohama City University Hospital spoke about a system it is developing. The system’s artificial intelligence analyzes images from cameras installed on beds and predicts how a patient’s condition will change.The group says additional beds for seriously ill COVID-19 patients have been put in remote areas at the hospital. Some people have expressed the concern that medical staff may be unable to closely monitor the conditions of those patients. They say it has been trying to determine whether the AI-assisted system will be helpful in such situations.

    Another group from a hospital affiliated with Showa University unveiled AI technology that can predict how high a patient’s blood pressure will be in three hours’ time. The predictions are based on past data that has been fed into the AI-system. Blood pressure data is used as one of the indices to gauge the seriousness of a patient’s condition.

    The event’s organizer also announced that the Japanese Society of Intensive Care Medicine will create a non-profit organization with other parties. The organization will promote research aimed at finding ways in which AI can be used by healthcare professionals.

  • An annual event choosing the kanji, or Chinese character, that best summarizes this year’s atmosphere in Japan has been held. The kanji of 2020 chosen through a contest is read as “mitsu” meaning “close” or “dense.” The character was used in the government’s anti-coronavirus campaign of avoiding the Three C’s: closed spaces, crowded places and close-contact settings.Nearly 210,000 people entered the contest held by a Kyoto-based organization promoting the use of kanji. The announcement was made at a public calligraphy performance by the chief priest of Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto.The organization says the outbreak has caused many people to pay attention to the level of crowding, but it has also encouraged them to keep in close communication online with loved ones even if they are far away.

    The character also means “secrecy”. The organization says this is another reason for choosing the character as a lot of secrets have been uncovered in political and showbusiness circles this year. Chief priest Mori Seihan says he prayed for the repose of the souls of people who died due to the coronavirus outbreak and that the coming year will be a happy one.

    Mori says the kanji “mitsu” also has a meaning of “familiarity” and that he wants people to have stronger connections with each other even if they are physically apart.

Speech by Prime Minister Rutte on Monday 14 December.

Update on the Netherlands

  • The coronavirus is once again spreading rapidly. More than 8,000 new infections were reported for the fifth day in a row by the public health agency RIVM on Monday, raising the weekly average to its highest level in almost 6 weeks. The number of patients with COVID-19 in hospitals and care homes is also rising. That has an impact on healthcare in general; more than one million routine hospital procedures have had to be postponed.This was why Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced on Monday 14 December that the Netherlands will go into a strict ‘hard lockdown’ from 15 December until at least Tuesday 19 January. Nearly 8.4 million people tuned in to watch his speech.

    The lockdown means that venues such as museums and theaters, amusement parks, sports venues and restaurants will be closed throughout this period. ‘Non-essential shops’ such as clothing stores will also be closed. Supermarkets, bakeries, butchers and other shops where food is sold can remain open, as can establishments such as pharmacies and petrol stations. Regarding contact-based professions, only people in medical and paramedical professions such as dentists can continue to carry out their work, which means hairdressers, nail salons etc. will be closed.

    Primary and secondary schools, schools for secondary vocation education (MBO) and higher education institutions (universities and HBO) will deliver teaching online in order to reduce in-person contact. They may make exceptions for those sitting exams and interim exams this academic year, as well as for practical training and to support vulnerable pupils and students. Childcare centres will also be closed.

    Primary schools and childcare centres will remain open for children whose parents work in critical sectors. In order to allow enough time to make preparations, the measures for schools, educational institutions and childcare centres will apply from Wednesday 16 December. They will be in place until Sunday 17 January.

    Then, the advice remains to stay at home as much as possible, including during the festive season. Rutte announced that the new maximum number of guests you may receive at home is set to 2, with an exception on 24, 25 and 26, then you may receive 3 guests.

    For a complete overview of the measures, we refer to the website of the government of the Netherlands.

  • The decision to close primary and secondary schools as part of the hard coronavirus lockdown now effective in the Netherlands, must also result in parents working from home more, Minister Hugo de Jonge of Public Health said in the television program Het coronavirus, feiten en fabels. “It is precisely working from home that hasn’t been going so well lately,” the Minister said.The risk of the coronavirus spreading when parents bring their children to school also played a role in the government’s decision to close them. Vulnerable children and children whose parents have vital professions can still go to school.

    De Jonge explained that the coronavirus reproduction or R number is currently at around 1.24. That means that each Covid-19 patient infects 1.24 other people. If that doesn’t change, the Netherlands will have just as many Covid-19 patients around Christmas as the peak of the first wave in the spring.

    Warnings about this from the Outbreak Management Team and public health institute RIVM also pushed the government to implement stricter measures. For the virus to fade away, the R number must be below 1. “We have no other option than to go full on the emergency brake,” De Jonge said.

  • Bird flu has been diagnosed at a small-scale poultry farm in Maasland in South Holland, the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV) reported on Saturday. To prevent further spread of the disease, the farm’s five hundred chickens must be culled.There are no other poultry farms in the 10 kilometers around the company. A series of security measures are being taken in this area. For example, there is a ban on transport of poultry, eggs, manure and used bedding.

    At the end of October, the highly contagious H5 variant of bird flu was found in two swans near Utrecht. Two days later, the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality introduced a housing obligation to prevent the spread of the virus.

    This national housing obligation is still in force. As of this week, companies with laying hens and broilers have also been subject to a stricter reporting obligation. Zoos, petting zoos and people who keep birds or chickens as a hobby should better shield their birds and poultry so that they do not come into contact with wild animals that may carry the virus.

    This year, companies in Groningen, Utrecht, Gelderland and Friesland were already cleared. So far, this concerns more than half a million animals. Last week, a company in Mijdrecht in Utrecht was cleared because bird flu was diagnosed. This company had three hundred chickens.

  • The European Investment Bank (EIB) and Dutch bank ING came to an agreement which will allow the Dutch bank to offer new, cheap loans to small and medium sized companies, in an effort to help limit the impact of the coronavirus crisis, the banks announced on Thursday.The EIB will guarantee almost 800 million in existing ING loans. In return, ING will provide 1.1 billion euros in new loans to SMEs. 702 million euros of that amount will be loaned at an extra low interest rate.

    “In the next phase of the Covid-19 crisis, it is even more important to stimulate Dutch companies with a sound market and financial position to resume their investment programs again and seek new growth opportunities,” ING CEO Ruud van Dusschoten said.

    Paolo Gentiloni, European Commissioner for the Economy, is pleased that this deal will help SMEs, which were especially affected by the pandemic and traditionally have a harder time accessing bank financing.

    “Thanks to the EIB Group guarantee backed by the Investment Plan for Europe, ING will unlock significant additional lending for Dutch SMEs. This is a further clear sign of our commitment to help businesses of all sizes to get through this difficult period,” he said.

  • The TUI Group lost over 3 billion euros in its past financial year, largely due to the coronavirus and accompanying travel restrictions putting severe pressure on the travel organization’s turnover and profits. The organization has hope for a better summer season next year, NOS reports.TUI is a German company that runs hotels, organizes cruises and holidays, and has airlines in various countries, including the Netherlands. All branches of TUI made a loss. Most of the company’s hotels and resorts closed completely in the first coronavirus lockdown, and flights were canceled en masse.

    As a result, the company’s turnover in the financial year from October 2019 to September 2020 amounted to only 8 billion euros, with a loss of more than 3 billion euros. In the previous financial year, TUI generated almost 19 billion euros in turnover and a profit of over 500 million euros.

    So far, TUI received 4.8 billion euros in coronavirus support from the German government. The travel restrictions in place due to the second wave of the coronavirus means that TUI expects to operate at only 20% capacity this winter season. It hopes to be back at 80% capacity by the summer.

  • Schiphol will soon be one of the most important distribution points for the coronavirus vaccines in the world. And as such the airport and airline combination Air France-KLM are working hard on preparations to store and transport these highly anticipated vaccines, Het Parool reports.”Perhaps 15 billion vaccines are needed worldwide,” Adriaan den Heijer of Air France-KLM said to the newspaper. A third will be transported by air. That will require somewhere between 1,000 and 7,000 cargo planes. Air France-KLM will perform 10 to 20% of those flights.

    The coronavirus vaccines will be collected in countries like India, China and the United States, and taken by plane to Schiphol. From there they’ll be flown to Africa, Latin America and Asia. Vaccines for Europe will be distributed by truck from Schiphol.

    Cargo buildings 1 and 2 at Schiphol are being equipped for storing vaccines, which must be kept at between -2 and -8 degrees Celsius. Refrigerated containers are ready and waiting in Cargo 1. Each container can hold up to 30 thousand vaccines. And KLM’s freight jumbos can carry 41 containers at a go. Cargo 2 is being converted into a cold store.

    “We don’t know exactly when the vaccines will arrive, we do not know how many and not exactly from where and to where,” Marcel Kuijn, responsible for pharmaceutical transport at Air France KLM Cargo, said to Het Parool. “It is getting closer, but those vaccines also have to be approved. As soon as there’s a green light, we have to start immediately.

    By transporting vaccines, KLM gives something back to the Netherlands, which bailed the airline out with a 3.4 billion euros support package, Den Heijer said to the newspaper. “This shows the importance of KLM. Nobody wants a pandemic, but now we can show what we are worth. We already did that with masks and other medical equipment. This is more complicated, but the social importance is the same.”

  • In a Brexit without trade agreements between the United Kingdom and the European Union, in the worst case scenario, the export value of Dutch flowers will decrease by almost 20%, says Eline van den Berg of the Royal FloraHolland flower auction.As a specialist in the supply chains of the auction, Van den Berg has calculated the consequences of Brexit. She has included five cost items in this. To start with, the paperwork for customs and the delay with which the flower transport has to deal at the border. There is also the currency risk – if the British pound falls in value against the euro, Dutch flowers in the UK will become more expensive.Brexit is also putting the disposable income of British consumers under pressure. “You can only spend your pound once,” says Van den Berg. Flowers are more likely to be removed from the shopping list than food. Another possibility is that the middlemen or the shops will disguise this price increase by making the bouquets smaller; not ten but eight for the same price, or by choosing cheaper variants.

    These effects play a role in any case, no matter the outcome of Brexit. In that case, almost 14% of the flower exports could be lost. In addition, a hard Brexit will also result in import duties. So taxes, and the British charge 8% for cut flowers. That makes a big difference, because the margins are small for flowers. Some growers are considering adjusting their production, says Van den Berg. To start growing other colors, and to divert the trade to other countries. But that can put prices under pressure elsewhere.

    The corona effect is also not completely over, as the restrictive measures in France and Germany are still holding back sales. Now Brexit is coming on top of that. Royal FloraHolland mainly wants clarity. Van den Berg gives an example. “From 1 April, flowers must have a health certificate before they go on the ferry to England. But it is not known what should be in those documents. ” Van den Berg is concerned about waiting times at the border. “If you already see how long the truck traffic jam is at Calais, this would not affect flowers in any positive way.

  • The Dutch word “anderhalvemetersamenleving” (“1.5-meter-society”) was selected as the 2020 Word of the Year, getting 29.8% of the 12,000 votes, publisher Van Dale announced on Tuesday. Second place went to  “fabeltjesfuik” with 11% of the votes.The word refers to social distancing in the coronavirus pandemic. “A society that is structured in such a way that citizens in public spaces and in publicly accessible locations can keep at least a meter and a half distance from others, in particular to prevent virus epidemics,” Van Dale explained the word.

    The word “Fabeltjesfuik” refers to people on social media who read a lot about conspiracy theories and get trapped in the bubble, getting more and more posts about these types of theories. Most of the 20 words on the shortlist for this year’s word of the year had to do with the coronavirus.

Update on Dujat & Members

  • This week on Thursday 17 December from 9:00 CET, we will organize the last Dujat event of the year: The Energy Webinar. This event is organized in close cooperation with NOM – Investment and Development Agency for the Northern Netherlands.The webinar will address a highly interesting energy topic. Hydrogen as an energy vector is in fashion due to its potential to support the transition to a decarbonized energy system required to meet the emission reduction goals of the Paris Agreement. This webinar will focus on the development of hydrogen in Europe and the (Northern) Netherlands. It is still possible to register.

  • 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)

蘭日貿易連盟 | www.dujat.nl

Stroombaan 10 | 1181 VX Amstelveen | The Netherlands

Sources: Nu.nlNOSTrouwJapanTodayNHKKyodo NewsANN News