Weekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 9, 2021

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Update on Japan

  • Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide announced Friday that the government will lift its COVID-19 state of emergency for six prefectures on Sunday, but the Tokyo metropolitan area will have to wait for further signs that its situation is improving. Of the 10 prefectures under the state of emergency, Aichi, Gifu, Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo and Fukuoka will be removed from the list a week earlier than the scheduled end date of 7 March as infections have declined and the strain on hospitals has eased.The decision comes as the government seeks to revive an economy hit by plummeting household spending and the absence of foreign tourists. Some health experts, however, warn an early exit could lead to a resurgence in infections. “It’s important that we don’t let our guard down,” Suga said at a meeting of the government’s coronavirus task force after a panel of experts in infectious diseases and other areas approved the move.To exit the state of emergency, a prefecture must see its situation improve from Stage 4, the worst level on the government’s four-point scale. The stages are based on six key indicators, including the weekly number of infections per 100,000 people and the percentage of hospital beds for COVID-19 patients currently available.

    Aichi, Gifu, Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo have all cleared most of the criteria. Fukuoka has lagged in bringing down hospital occupancy rates, but the government expects further progress as infection numbers continue to recede, an official said. Tokyo and neighboring Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama have seen some improvement but are to remain under the state of emergency for the time being.

    Under the state of emergency, people have been asked to refrain from unnecessarily leaving their homes, while restaurants and bars are required to close by 8 p.m. with fines for noncompliance. Businesses are encouraged to adopt remote working, while attendance at large live events such as concerts and sports has been capped at 5,000.

    While the government is eager to get the world’s third-largest economy back on track, some health experts have expressed concern an early exit could lead to a resurgence in infections, especially as children enter and graduate from school and companies do their annual new staff intakes. The always busy cherry blossom-viewing season will also enter full swing across the country.

    The head of the Japan Medical Association, Nakagawa Toshio, on Thursday warned of complacency among the public, saying, “There is a danger it could send the wrong message that everything is all right now.”

    Nishimura Yasutoshi , the minister in charge of the COVID-19 response, said in a parliamentary committee meeting Friday the government was planning a “strategic expansion” of infection testing that targets hot spots such as nightlife areas to prevent such a scenario. Lifting the state of emergency will not mean an immediate return to normalcy, with some measures to be gradually eased. For example, the cap on event attendance will increase to 10,000 before it can be removed entirely.

    The nationwide tally of coronavirus cases has fallen from the single-day record of nearly 8,000, logged in early January when the state of emergency was declared, to a little more than 1,000 on Thursday. There were 74 deaths attributed to COVID-19 the same day, down from the peak of 121 in early February but still relatively high.

  • The Japanese government said Tuesday that an investigation would be launched after more than 1,000 coronavirus vaccine doses had to be thrown out when a freezer storing them malfunctioned. A medical institution reported that 172 vials of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which must be kept between -80 and -60 degrees centigrade, were rendered useless after the freezer breakdown over the weekend, Japan’s health ministry said, wasting up to 1,032 doses.Japan began its inoculation program on 17 February, just over five months before the Tokyo Olympics, and has so far only approved the Pfizer/BioNTech drug, of which the third batch of the vaccine arrived in Japan on Monday. The Japanese government spokesman Kato Katsunobu said Tuesday that the cause of the freezer malfunction was not yet clear, but the firm that installed it would investigate and report back. Kato said Japan had installed around 100 vaccine freezers nationwide by the end of February.Japan began vaccinating healthcare workers in mid-February, with the minister in charge of the process admitting he had “no idea” how much of the population would receive the jab before the Olympics, which start on 23 July. As of 1 March, it had administered first doses to nearly 32,000 doctors and nurses, according to vaccine minister Kono Taro.

    The country has reached deals with three major drug firms to buy enough doses for its population of 126 million. But it was also scrambling to secure enough special syringes needed to extract six full doses from each vial of the Pfizer vaccine.

    Japan is running a cautious rollout program and is planning to initially vaccinate 40,000 healthcare workers across the country, before administering jabs to around 3.7 million more in March. Vaccines for around 36 million people aged 65 or older are set to start from April.

  • A raging wildfire on a mountainside in Tochigi Prefecture that firefighters battled from the air and ground for nine days was finally brought under control on 1 March, according to the city government. The government lifted the evacuation advisory for 305 households in the path of the fire, which broke out on 21 February. Some 106 hectares have been burned, the city said.The fire started in a mountain forest near Mount Ryogaisan, which rises 251 meters above sea level. Trails that run through Mount Ryogaisan, located close to the city center, and Mount Tenguyama are popular with hikers. A dry air advisory had been in effect in Tochigi Prefecture since 16 February. Coupled with strong winds, the conditions helped the fire spread quickly.The blaze approached homes in various parts of the area, prompting the city government to issue an evacuation advisory to wider areas. Disaster response helicopters of the Self-Defense Forces and local governments dropped water on the blaze every day, while firefighters made a desperate effort to put out the fire from the ground to protect homes in its path.

    The Ashikaga city government confirmed on the late afternoon of 1 March that the fire is unlikely to spread farther as it was deemed under control. Firefighters on the ground will continue to extinguish the remaining flames to fully contain it. One junior high school in the city resumed classes from 1 March after being temporarily closed during the spread of the fire.

  • The number of coronavirus pandemic-induced corporate bankruptcies in Japan reached a monthly record of 126 in February, with the restaurant and apparel industries hardest hit, a survey by a credit research company showed Friday. The cumulative number of such bankruptcies since the start of the novel coronavirus outbreak in the country in February last year stood at 1,108, Tokyo Shoko Research said.With many companies staying afloat by relying on public support measures, pandemic-induced corporate failures could start increasing at a faster pace, it said.Of the cumulative bankruptcies, eating and drinking establishments made up the largest portion at 194, with such businesses in prefectures subject to the state of emergency hit by restrictions on operating hours and calls for residents to refrain from nonessential outings.

    In January, Japan declared a state of emergency covering some prefectures and the restrictions remain in place for 10 of them. The apparel industry including clothing manufacturers and retailers saw 102 bankruptcies, followed by the construction industry with 97 cases. There were 68 bankruptcies in the accommodation industry. By region, 271 bankruptcies were filed in Tokyo, followed by 106 cases in Osaka Prefecture.

  • On Tuesday, the Japanese government approved a draft bill aimed at helping regional authorities create a carbon-free society. The draft bill revises a law on global warming measures, with the goal of reaching a zero-carbon target across Japan by 2050.The proposed bill, approved during a Cabinet meeting, stipulates that central and local governments should work closely together, alongside the public, to achieve this goal. It asks cities, wards, towns and villages across the country to hold discussions with residents and designate zones to promote renewable energy power facilities and other business initiatives that will lead to carbon neutrality.It also says local governments should make efforts to set goals for the introduction of solar and wind power. The draft bill adds that local governments can also simplify approval procedures for businesses that conform to environmental standards or contribute to the local community.
  • All Nippon Airways Co. (ANA) has said it will offer digital in-flight magazines and newspapers from April to help reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Planes will be lighter as they will no longer carry printed versions, saving fuel and slashing carbon footprints by an estimated 10,690 tons per year. The airline said the move is expected to cut annual paper usage by 1,540 tons and costs by 530 million yen (€4 million) per year.The digitalization of in-flight publications comes as the company, hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, is planning to reduce its workforce by roughly 20% over the next five years through natural attrition, sources familiar with the matter have said.According to ANA, its Tsubasa Global Wings in-flight magazine will be available online and via the airline’s mobile application from the April issue. For passengers who prefer printed versions, the company will offer smaller-sized booklets.

    Passengers will be able to download the in-flight magazines as well as newspapers through the app up to 24 hours prior to scheduled departure times and the content will remain available for download up to 24 hours after their scheduled arrival. While all passengers will be able to access the digital magazines, the digital newspapers will not be available to those traveling in economy class, the airline said.

Update on the Netherlands

‘Silent protest’ by the hospitality industry in the Netherlands.

  • Some 8.9% of the 317,000 people who scheduled their own coronavirus test were diagnosed with the coronavirus, public health agency RIVM said on Tuesday. The combined weekly data through 10 AM showed a drop from from 9.7% a week earlier, when excluding specific large-scale experiments in Bunschoten, Dronten, and Charlois in Rotterdam.Regular care hospital admissions of COVID-19 patients rose by 1% to 1,133, while intensive care admissions dropped by almost 8% to 224. There was also a 26% decrease in deaths linked to the coronavirus disease, with 309 notifications made to the RIVM through Tuesday morning.All told, the number of people testing positive for the infection rose by 7% to 31,984 over the past seven days. Nearly all age groups showed an increase in per capita infections, except for the collective category of people over the age of 70, which showed a marginal decrease. “The number of infections in the nursing home also decreased further. This points to one of the first positive consequences of vaccination against the coronavirus in the Netherlands.”

    Despite this, the RIVM said it was concerned about a sharp increase in people reporting symptoms of COVID-19 over the past two weeks, similar to levels seen in December when the government began enforcing a stricter lockdown that included school closings. The agency said that even after accounting for a possible overlap with similar seasonal allergy symptoms, the spread of the novel coronavirus could be worsening.

    It pointed to its new mid-month calculation that every 100 people contagious with the infection passed the virus on to 102 others, making the basic reproduction (R) number of all viral variants 1.02. The R-number of the variant that was dominant last year rose from 0.90 on 5 February to 1.02 a week later. The B117 variant from the UK that emerged in the Netherlands in December had a R-number that rose from 1.14 to 1.26. Another more contagious variant which originated in South Africa now has a calculated R-number of 1.37, meaning 100 contagious people will spread it to 137 others.

    The RIVM explained that the sharp 20% rise in testing last week was the likely reason why the positive test rate fell, especially as those up to the age of 12 who share a classroom or daycare space with an infected person must get tested after five days of quarantine if parents want to return them to their groups early. Otherwise, they must self-isolate for at least ten days. Municipal health service GGD was able to complete 317,361 tests for the week ending Tuesday morning, up from 263,506 the week before.

    Since the end of February last year, 1,096,433 people have tested positive for the coronavirus infection. To date, nearly 42,000 people have been treated in the regular care ward of a Dutch hospital for COVID-19, with 85% having survived the ordeal. Almost 8,900 have been treated in intensive care with a survival rate of 72%, figures from Stichting NICE showed.

    A total of 15,649 people diagnosed with COVID-19 have died from the disease, the RIVM said. Excess mortality data from statistics bureau CBS suggested the real total was likely several thousand higher, as the disease claimed the lives of many people who were not yet diagnosed with the illness.

    Regarding the vaccinations, currently 7% of the adult Dutch population has had a first injection and a total of more than 1.2 million vaccinations have been carried out. With this, the Netherlands has climbed to fourth place on the list of EU countries when it comes to the speed at which vaccinations are carried out against the corona virus. This is evident from recent figures from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.

  • Various cafes and restaurants in Amsterdam and Breda opened their terraces on Tuesday to protest against the government’s coronavirus policy on Tuesday. They feel they are not getting enough support and believe that the terraces outside can be opened safely. However, they had to close them again after a short time.The Breda entrepreneur Johan de Vos, among others, opened the terrace of his pub on Tuesday. De Vos, also spokesman on behalf of many other catering entrepreneurs who opened their terraces on Tuesday afternoon, has now dismantled his terrace. He did this after consultation with the municipality. The chairs are stacked on top of each other and the tables are turned upside down.”We have made a statement and show that we can open in a responsible manner,” said De Vos. Shortly after opening, the terrace was packed and the first cups of coffee and beers were sold quickly. With the reopening, De Vos violated the corona measures. Mayor Paul Depla of Breda and other mayors already announced on Monday that they would perform if people on a terrace are provided with a drink or snack.

    The catering entrepreneur initially did not know whether he could expect a fine. When asked, a spokesperson for the municipality of Breda said he only gets a warning for the time being. A crowdfunding campaign had already been set up to collect money for a possible fine. The counter stands at more than 6,500 euros.

    The facade and terrace of De Vos’ café were smeared with ketchup last night. Strangers have also placed posters with the text “Johan de V. and Paul D. Opening = blood on your hands. Sedition is prohibited by law”. This counter-action was no reason for the entrepreneur to keep the terrace indoors.

    Action was also taken in Amsterdam against catering establishments that had reopened the terraces. For example, Café del Mondo on the Nieuwmarkt, where people could have a drink for a short time, is now closed. Mayor Femke Halsema warned other catering entrepreneurs that action will be taken if they do open their terraces.

    Halsema calls on catering entrepreneurs “despite the difficult situation and great need” not to open the terraces. A silent protest action, such as a terrace with red-and-white ribbon or tables upside down, will be left untouched. But actually opening terraces is not allowed due to the corona pandemic. “Then we have to act.” Catering establishments that do open their doors risk a forced closure.

    Besides the hospitality indsutry, various retail businesses protested as well. Dozens of stores that opened in Klazienaveen in Drenthe on Tuesday morning, had to close again an hour later after getting an official warning. The municipality gave them 15 minutes to close up or they’d be fined, chairman Harrie van der Velde of the local shopkeepers’ association said to NOS.

  • Secondary schools and MBO partially restarted classes from Monday 1 March. Students can go to school at least one day a week. Since the Christmas holidays, they had to do it only with online classes.Primary schools already opened their doors three weeks ago. Last week, the cabinet decided that secondary schools should also be allowed to provide physical education again. The OMT believes that it is safe and responsible if everyone, with the exception of secondary special education, keeps a distance of 1.5 meters from each other in the schools.Secondary schools are allowed to offer customization themselves. This means that students are also allowed to go to school there more than one day a week, if this is possible. For the time being, MBO students are allowed to go to school one day a week.

    Between classes, students should wear face masks. In addition, the same measures apply as in primary education. If a student or teacher tests positive for the coronavirus, the students and teachers who have had close contact with the infected person should be quarantined for ten days. On the fifth day, they can voluntarily get tested in order to shorten the quarantine.

    There is also a great need in higher education for more space for physical education. That is why the cabinet is looking at whether higher education can be reopened in a subsequent phase. Colleges and universities can prepare for this in advance.

  • An estimated 13.2 million Netherlands residents are eligible to vote in the upcoming parliamentary election, according to Statistics Netherlands (CBS). This includes over 2.4 million people over the age of 70, as well as 810,000 young people eligible to vote in a parliamentary election for the first time. Netherlands residents who are 18 years old or older on election day and who have Dutch nationality are eligible to vote in the election.Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the parliamentary election will look a bit different than usual. Elderly people can vote by mail, as the elderly are at high risk when it comes to COVID-19. Election day is on 17 March, but polling stations will also be open on 15 and 16 March. This is to give people more time to vote, so that they spread out more and there is space for social distancing.Almost 93% of Netherlands residents aged 18 or older are entitled to vote. Among first generation immigrants – people born abroad who moved to the Netherlands – almost 54% are eligible to vote. Among second generation immigrants, people born in the Netherlands but with at least one parent born abroad, 98% have Dutch nationality and are entitled to vote. Dutch living abroad can also vote in the upcoming parliamentary election, but they were not included in these figures.
  • Hotels, restaurants and cafés suffered incredible revenue losses in the past year. According, to a report published by Statistics Netherlands (CBS), the hospitality sector lost 44% in revenue in the last quarter of 2020 compared to the third.The hospitality sector’s revenue loss was seven times larger in 2020 than it was during the financial crisis of 2009. Overall, compared to the previous year the sector suffered a 33.9% financial loss in 2020.In total, hotels were hit the hardest by the pandemic with a 50.8% income decrease, followed by cafés and restaurants at 41.7 and 34.6% respectively. In comparison to other parts of the hospitality field, fast-food restaurants were least affected by the pandemic at a 13.5% overall revenue decrease.

    The first dip in earnings occurred in mid-March of 2020 when hotels, restaurants and cafés were ordered to close their doors by the government in order to combat the coronavirus. The sector continued to lose income up until 1 June, 2020 when the Netherlands loosened restrictions. Revenue in the third quarter, therefore, shot up averaging out at roughly the same amount as before the lockdown in the first quarter.

    In the fourth quarter, hotels, restaurants and cafés were ordered to close again as the second coronavirus wave hit the country. During the last quarter of 2020, cafes were hit hardest at a 70.4% decrease compared to the quarter prior. Restaurants and hotels also took a large financial toll in the last quarter, losing 56.7 and 51.1%  respectively compared to the third quarter.

  • Supermarket chain Dirk van den Broek launched a petition to lower the VAT on fruit and vegetables from 9 to 6%. According to the supermarket, the low VAT rate increase of 2019 resulted in healthy eating becoming more expensive than many unhealthy alternatives. “High time for action,” Marcel Huizing, general manager of Dirk van den Broek, said to AD.”The VAT increase that took effect in 2019 can no longer be defended for fruit and vegetables. That’s why we’re starting the petition. It must be possible to induce politicians to return the rate to 6%,” Huizing said. “I call on all supermarkets to share and sign the petition.”According to Minister Carola Schouten of Agriculture and Food Safety, regulations from Brussels make it impossible to lower the VAT on fruit and vegetables. But Huizing disputes this. “It is possible to request exception to that European policy per country. I may be opportunistic, but it is possible if we all want it.”

    According to him, supermarkets lowering prices on fruit and vegetables themselves is not an option. “We already offer competitive prices. Only there is a limit to what we can achieve with suppliers in the price of fruit and vegetables. That is why we want to get politicians to take action.’

Update on Dujat & Members

  • SAVE THE DATE: ‘SUPPLY CHAIN TALKS’The must watch talk show for global supply chain professionals.The Port of Rotterdam presents the 2nd edition of ‘Supply Chain Talks’

    on 16 March from 16:00h – 16:45h CET (10:00h EST/23:00h CST).

    REGISTER FOR FREE

    With international speakers from leading parties in shipping and logistics:

    – Michiel Heller – Site Manager Netherlands Movianto

    – Annet Koster – Director KVNR – Royal Association of Netherlands Shipowners

    – Arnoud de Rade – Managing Director Rotterdam Rail Feeding

    – John Scherders – CEO DHL Supply Chain BeNeLux & Nordics

    – Renske Schoenmaker – Sr. Business Manager Containers Deepsea Port of Rotterdam

    – Boudewijn Siemons – COO Port of Rotterdam

    During this 45-minute broadcast live from the World Port Center in Rotterdam with interviews, discussions, news and behind the scenes video coverage we connect with our business partners from around the globe.

    In this edition we cover:– The logistic challenges of vaccine distribution;

    – The long term implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on the logistics chain;

    –  The impact of current and future investments on the accessibility of the port;

    – Current disruptions in the supply chain and the impact on the life of seafarers;

    – The sustainable ambitions of the shipping industry;

    – On site interview with Rotterdam Rail Feeding on the European inland rail ambitions.

  • This week on Thursday 4 March, Dujat organizes an Employment Law Webinar where presenters from L&A Lawyers, HVG Law and Solved will explain about the many questions and challenges employers must face:What are the legal aspects of working from home? Can the employer make vaccination a condition of hiring or continued employment? What are the measures and requirements in the current economic support and recovery package? And how should the office be adapted, now and after the pandemic?Registration is still possible on our event site.
  • 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.nlNOSJapanTodayNHKKyodo NewsJapanTimesAsahi Shimbun