Weekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 6, 2021

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Promotion displayed at Japanese airports introduced by Japan Airlines Co to cover expenses paid by JAL passengers who have been infected with the new coronavirus during overseas travel.

Update on Japan

  • The Japanese government will review if there are any areas where the state of emergency can be lifted before it expires on 7 March. As the revised special measures legislation will take effect on Saturday, the government is preparing to consult with experts on how to reflect the revision in guidelines on reducing infection risks. The meeting is expected to take place around Friday.The revised legislation allows a phased easing of measures, even if a state of emergency is not in place. With the number of new cases is on the decline in some areas, the government hopes to see if there are any prefectures where the state of emergency can be lifted. It was extended to 7 March in 10 prefectures, including Tokyo.Osaka Governor Yoshimura Hirofumi indicated that if a request is made to the central government to end the state of emergency, he would also request a phased easing of measures. Many governors at the National Governors’ Association meeting on Saturday wanted the central government to set criteria for applying the phased measures.The government will continue to analyze the status of medical care systems in 10 prefectures, even after the state of emergency ends, in case there is a surge in the spread of the virus. It is considering a phased easing of measures.
  • The European Union has approved the first shipment of Pfizer Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine to Japan, the minister overseeing Japan’s vaccination program said on Tuesday, as the country aims to start vaccination by mid-February.It appears each shipment requires EU approval, said the minister, Kono Taro. He did not say how many doses the first shipment would contain, or when it would be delivered. “This will enable us to start vaccination of the initial group of medical workers. We will need to fix the schedule for the rest of the medical workers and the elderly as we go forward,” Kono told a regular news conference.The Japanese government plans to vaccinate medical workers first, then the elderly, followed by people with health conditions and those working at elderly care facilities.Regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine, the drugmaker said on Friday it had applied for approval in Japan of its COVID-19 vaccine, making it the second pharmaceutical firm to do so after Pfizer Inc.

    The AstraZeneca element is a critical component in the government’s inoculation plan before the Tokyo Olympics scheduled for this summer: the doses will be made mostly in Japan, and don’t need to be kept refrigerated at the ultra-cold temperatures required for the Pfizer formula.

    The Japanese government will draw up guidelines on how to safely transport COVID-19 vaccines, health minister Tamura Norihisa said Monday. “We aim to quickly communicate information to local governments, including how to transport and handle (the vaccines),” Tamura said during a meet of the House of Representatives Budget Committee.

    The government has enlisted distribution firms Yamato Holdings Co, Seino Holdings Co and DHL International GmbH to transport the vaccines in Japan, according to sources familiar with the matter.

  • The Japanese government is planning to draw over 8 billion euros from reserve funds to support businesses whose operations are being disrupted amid the coronavirus pandemic. The amount was set aside in the fiscal 2020 budget.Cabinet ministers made the decision on Tuesday. They plan to allocate 6.9 billion euros to restaurants and bars that are complying with a government request to shorten hours. Each would receive up to around 14,000 euros a month. The decision follows an extension of the country’s second state of emergency in Tokyo and several other prefectures over the pandemic.Another allocation is earmarked for a one-time subsidy to other businesses affected by the emergency measures. Small and medium-sized companies can receive up to 4,700 euros. For individual business owners, the maximum payment is about 2,400 euros. That spending is expected to total around 2 billion euros.
  • The Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games organizing committee has apologized to the event’s sponsors over remarks made by its president Mori Yoshiro that have been criticized as sexist. The committee held an online meeting on Monday 8 February for about 80 sponsors during which it apologized for the comments.On Wednesday last week, while referring to the Japanese Olympic Committee’s plan to increase the number of women on its board, Mori said that board meetings with women take too long because they talk too much.According to people familiar with the matter, some sponsors said the committee should not consider the matter closed just because Mori retracted his remarks and apologized. Others asked the committee to provide a proper explanation to the public.Facing criticism, Mori apologized and retracted his words the day after he made his remarks. But the backlash has continued at home and abroad, and about 390 people have withdrawn from volunteering for the Games.

    In a statement on Sunday, the committee pledged to “continue the Games operations with the aim of improving a society, respecting, celebrating and embracing the variety of individuals and diversity.”

    In response to the remarks, over 130,000 people have signed an online petition, urging the governments of Japan and Tokyo, the Japanese Olympic Committee and the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games organizing committee to consider what to do with Mori. They also call for preventive measures and efforts to make women account for at least 40% of all organizations related to the Tokyo Games, in line with guidelines by the Sports Agency.

    One of the petition organizers, Yamamoto Kazuna, urges the Games committee to face the matter sincerely, rather than dealing with it as a problem merely relating to an individual. Yamamoto says she wants to turn this into an opportunity for people to understand that both men and women sometimes have to suppress their opinions at work, and to try to make it easier to speak up.

  • Japan Airlines Co is offering a service to cover the expenses of its international passengers for their tests, treatment and quarantine if they have become infected with COVID-19 while overseas.Travelers with tickets until 30 June are eligible to receive the service for free, if they had tested positive outside their country of residence and within 31 days from the departure date of their first flight, JAL said, becoming the first airline in Japan to launch such a program.Teaming up with Allianz Group, a major German insurance company, the service, JAL Covid-19 Cover, can compensate passengers by up to 150,000 euros (19 million yen) for treatment and up to 100 euros per day in accommodation fees during quarantine for a maximum of 14 days.For now, the service, which is strictly not an insurance policy and began in late December, targets business people, with JAL hoping the measure could trickle down to others including tourists once travel restrictions are eased, according to its officials. To receive such support, passengers must contact the airline via a 24-hour hotline before being tested.

    JAL’s subsidiary low-cost carrier Zipair Tokyo Inc will also provide the service for flights between Narita airport and Honolulu until 31 March. Similar compensation programs are being offered by the Emirates Group in the United Arab Emirates and Virgin Atlantic Airways in Britain.

  • A new survey shows that Japanese households are relying less on cash to pay for their purchases. The figures indicate that creditcards and digital payment methods have hit a record high since 2007 when comparable data became available.The Central Council for Financial Services Information, based at the Bank of Japan, conducted the survey from August to September last year. Over 2,000 households of at least two people responded.Cash payments for everyday purchases of 1000 yen or less, or under about 1000 yen, dropped by more than 13% from a year earlier to 70.8%. The use of creditcards grew by 5% to 14.1%, and digital payment methods were up about 10% to 29.6%.Cashless payments also grew in popularity for larger purchases from 10,000 yen to 50,000 yen, worth about 100 to 500 euros. Cash usage for these items fell by nearly 15% to 33.9%. Creditcards accounted for 65.1% of such purchases, and digital payment usage nearly doubled to over 6%.

    Officials say a redeemable point system helped boost cashless payments. They add that the spread of the coronavirus may have also discouraged the use of cash.

Update on the Netherlands

  • The total number of COVID-19 patients in Dutch hospitals between Sunday and Monday afternoon rose by 3% to 2,034, data from patient coordination office LCPS showed. That included 542 people in intensive care, an increase of three, and 1,492 in regular care, an increase of 47 after accounting for admissions, discharges and deaths.Despite the single-day increase, the total number of patients has fallen by 10% over the past week. Should that trend continue there will be about 1,825 patients with the coronavirus disease in care next week.“The average number of admissions has decreased over the past week. The occupancy is also following a downward trend. Whether this will continue is uncertain, due to the British corona variant,” the LCPS said in a statement.With the large coronavirus testing centers closed on Sunday because of the icy, windy road conditions, the number of new daily coronavirus infections dropped to its lowest point since 22 September. Public health agency RIVM said on Monday that 2,273 more people tested positive for the infection.

    That total was 31% lower than last week, and pushed the seven-day moving average down to 3,804. The three cities reporting the most new infections were Rotterdam (90), Almere (59) and The Hague (48).

    The weather also forced the cancellation of the GGD mass vaccination points, with just under 2,500 more people receiving a coronavirus vaccine shot on Sunday. Most of those were given out at long-term care facilities, the RIVM said. Many of the vaccination and testing centers opened again on Monday.

    Since 6 January, the Netherlands administered 571,361 doses of a coronavirus vaccine. About 40% of those were given out just over the past week. To date, 1,007,981 people have tested positive for the coronavirus infection in the country. Of that group, 14,428 people diagnosed with COVID-19 died from the disease.

  • The police and Dutch mayors support the government’s plan to extend the coronavirus curfew until 2 March. The curfew was implemented on 23 January in an attempt to further reduce contacts between people and curb the spread of the highly contagious British variant B117 coronavirus strain. According to the Security Council, which consists of the mayors that head the country’s 25 security regions, the curfew is effective in that sense.”We see that the curfew has worked quite well. It has resulted in fewer people visiting each other. And that’s what it was about,” Hubert Bruls, mayor of Nijmegen and head of the Security Council, said to broadcaster NOS. He added that it is important to keep a close eye on whether the curfew is reducing COVID-19 infections in the coming period. The curfew is relatively easy to enforce, Bruls said. “It’s easy: you’re either indoors or out for a good reason. It is pretty easy to enforce.”The police agree that the curfew can be maintained in the coming weeks in terms of enforcement. “Enforcement since the introduction of the curfew is going well. We issued quite a few fines, even though most people simply adhere to the curfew or have the correct papers when they are on the street,” a spokesperson for the National Police said to the broadcaster.He added that the police are understaffed and overworked, which means that enforcing the curfew comes at the expense of something else. “We do not yet have an overview of what exactly has been left lying because of the curfew. That will be very fragmented, because it is determined locally. So it costs capacity, but can still be sustained. An extra three weeks will be achievable.”
  • The lowest temperature in the Netherlands in eight years was recorded in the village of Hupsel, in the far east of Gelderland, on Monday night, when the temperature dropped to -15.4 Celsius. That is the coldest it has been since 16 January 2013, when the temperature dropped to -18 Celsius in Herwijnen, also in Gelderland, broadcaster NOS reported on Tuesday. The lowest Dutch temperature ever recorded was -27.4 Celsius, registered in the appropriately named Winterswijk in 1942.Conditions on the highways are improving, according to the transport ministry’s roads department, but there are still problems in some places and on secondary roads. Train services are also getting back up to steam, although rail company NS has again urged travelers to delay all but essential journeys. Some COVID-19 testing and vaccination centers also remain shut, including the RAI testing center in Amsterdam and several in Rotterdam, news agency ANP reported.
  • While the coronavirus restrictions finally relaxed enough to allow primary schools to reopen from this week, a significant number of schools will remain closed due to the winter weather. Schools in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Leiden, in the Zaanstreek and Waterland regions, and in the east of the country announced that they would not be opening on Monday, NOS reported.In Amsterdam, over 100 schools that fall under the Federatie Openbaar Primair Onderwijs Amsterdam will remain closed. “We think it will not be possible to get everyone to school on time and that it is irresponsible,” chairman Herman Bruijne said to Het Parool. The risk of accidents due to icy roads is too great, the schools said. Many teachers also don’t live close to the school and it is uncertain whether they’ll be able to get there, due to the weather affecting public transport.The Waterland region is also worried about accidents. “We really do this for the safety of teachers and students,” Noor van Doesburg of the Opspoor schools umbrella sad to NH Nieuws. “We regret it enormously, of course.”In Overijssel, multiple schools for special education will remain closed as taxi companies in the province said they can’t transport pupils today due to the dangerous driving conditions, De Stentor reported.

    While the snowy weather is great, it is a shame that many primary schools can’t reopen today, Ad Veen of PO-Raad, the council for primary schools, said to NOS. “It’s a shame, because we hoped that schools would open. It’s pure force majeure,” he said. “Schools remain closed, especially in large cities. Teachers are dependent on public transport and the timetable for today is not optimal.”

  • In multiple parts of the Netherlands, including Deventer, Almelo, Den Haag and Naaldwijk, the heavy snowfall over the weekend caused roofs to cave in. The roof of the Freedom Museum in Groesbeek was one of the buildings that proved to be unable to withstand the weight of the snow. “The interior is not damaged and neither is the collection”, museum director Wiel Lender said to Omroep Gelderland.According to Lender, 3,000 kilograms of snow was removed from the roof on Sunday morning with the help of the fire department. With increased air pressure on the roof and heating set on full power, the museum hopes to prevent the same accident from happening twice. A warehouse in Naaldwijk also succumbed to the weight of the snow.In the region of Den Haag, part of the façade of an apartment building came tumbling down damaging a car underneath in the process. According to Omroep West, inhabitants were still able to spend the night in their homes.Volunteers in Deventer were able to prevent the roof of an inflatable hockey sports hall from collapsing after a warning message spread on WhatsApp, RTV Oost reports. A firetruck that was meant to support the volunteers got stuck in a grass field on the way, due to the snow. “Nice example of Twente neighborhood solidarity”, the Twente fire brigade tweeted.
  • Last year, 90% of internet users aged 12 and older took measures to protect their personal data on the internet, according to figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) on Tuesday. In 2016 this was 79%.For example, in 2020, 77% said they restricted or denied access to location data and 74% did not allow personal data to be used for commercial purposes. In 2016 this was 49 and 62% respectively.More than 60% of the Dutch gave limited access to profile data and checked the security of a website before leaving any personal data behind. In addition, 46% said they read the privacy statement for entering personal information.The Dutch did not only take measures on their computer or tablet, but also on their smartphone. For example, when installing or using an app, 70% denied access to personal information such as location, photos, or a contact list.

    People experienced with the internet, computers, tablets or smartphones more often took measures to protect personal data on the internet than people with little experience and such equipment.

    93% of 12 to 65-year-olds reported protecting their personal data on the internet. This percentage fell to 81% for people between the ages of 65 and 75 and 70% for the over-75s.

    The Netherlands is doing very well compared to other countries. In 2020, the country had the highest percentage of internet users between the ages of 16 and 75 who took measures to protect personal information on the internet of all 27 EU countries (93%).

    The EU average is 78%. In addition to the Netherlands, Austria and Finland (both 90%) also score well. Romania is at the bottom with 52%.

  • Touroperator TUI expects to be able to operate at 80% of its normal capacity next summer. From TUI Group’s first quarter figures ( pdf ) about the broken financial year, published on Tuesday, it can be concluded that up to the end of last month 2.8 million people have already booked a summer holiday.In the winter months covered by the quarterly report, TUI’s turnover fell by 88% compared to the same period a year earlier. In total, 116 of its own hotels were still open (compared to 229 last year), but strict travel restrictions applied everywhere.In Greece and the Caribbean, TUI still performed well in November and December, but for destinations such as the Canary Islands and the Maldives, the performance was poor. Five cruise ships from TUI have continued to sail in recent months, according to the operator the only provider that had cruise ships in the water during that period.During the previous financial year, TUI’s turnover and the number of holidays booked both decreased by about 60%. A loss of 3 billion euros rolled out.

Update on Dujat & Members

  • Next week on Thursday 18 February, we are pleased to bring you a second edition of the DUJAT Cultural Event: Virtual Meet & Greet, from 10:00 CET. Unfortunately our cultural members had to close their doors again, but they are glad to give an update and present their current and upcoming projects to you in this online event. Various museums and orchestras are participating, and we welcome you to join for an inspiring morning.Because last time we noticed that members in Japan were interested as well, we moved the event to the morning instead of the afternoon. We look forward to welcoming you to this unique event! Registration is possible here.
  • 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.nlNOSCBSJapanTodayNHKJapanTimes