Biweekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 45 & 46, 2021
This newsletter was shared with Dujat members on 9-11-2021. The next newsletter was sent out today.
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Update on Japan
On Monday 8 November the Japanese government started accepting new entry applications from companies and educational institutions for individuals from overseas, easing restrictions that were introduced in January amid the coronavirus pandemic. The COVID-19 quarantine period has been cut to three days from 10 days for business travelers who have been vaccinated as progress in inoculations has been made around the world.
“We have taken a step toward easing some of the restrictions as infections have been declining and in response to strong demand by the business community,” Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Isozaki Yoshihiko said at a news conference. Companies and educational institutions must file the required documents in advance and receive government approval to host individuals from overseas on condition that they will supervise those entering the country accordingly.
The farm ministry began receiving many inquiries Monday related to the application process for technical interns, at a time when the country is facing a shortage of workers in the agricultural sector due to the graying and decline of the population. “I’m not sure how many applications we will receive. There are many things that must be checked, so we expect our workload to reach a level we have never experienced before,” said a senior farm ministry official.
An official in charge of processing the applications at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which oversees the manufacturing sector among others, said his section has been constantly answering phone calls from people inquiring about receiving interns under the relaxed restrictions.
While the government is continuing to suspend the entry of tourists, it will also consider resuming acceptance of tourist groups by reviewing within this year how their activities can be controlled and monitored.
Those who are eligible for the shorter quarantine period must have been fully inoculated with vaccines by either Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca, the three currently approved by the Japanese government.
Firms need to submit documentation for business travelers, including written pledges by the businesspeople and companies to follow anti-virus measures as well as the planned activities of the travelers upon arrival in Japan.
It may take a week or two before the first travelers who have been granted shorter coronavirus quarantine periods arrive in the country, a health ministry official said.
The new measure comes after Japan has seen a sharp decline in COVID-19 cases following this summer’s fifth wave of infections and economic activities have continued to resume.
Students and interns entering for extended stays under the new rules must be tested for COVID-19 several times, including before departing for Japan and three days after arriving in the country. Their quarantine period will be 14 days in principle but shortened to 10 days for those who have received one of the three vaccines approved in Japan.
Japan suspended in January the new entry of foreigners, including businesspeople, in principle, following an explosive virus resurgence and the spread of highly contagious variants. It has only accepted individuals under “special circumstances,” such as on humanitarian grounds.
Prime Minister Kishida Fumio’s coalition kept a comfortable majority in Sunday’s parliamentary election despite losing some seats as his weeks-old government grapples with a coronavirus-battered economy and regional security challenges.
Kishida’s Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner Komeito together won 293 seats, well above the majority of 233 in the 465-member lower house, the more powerful of Japan’s two-chamber Diet, where they previously had 305 seats. Voter turnout was estimated at 55.93%.
The LDP lost 15 seats from its pre-election share, but the 261 seats it won are “an absolute majority” – a level that allows the party and its ruling bloc to control all parliamentary committees and easily ram through legislation.
Kishida, 64, dissolved the lower house only 10 days after taking office on 4 October. He had won the leadership race in his ruling party because the party’s conservative leaders saw him as a safe status-quo successor to Yoshihide Suga and his influential predecessor Shinzo Abe.
Kishida’s immediate task has been to rally support for a party weakened by Suga’s perceived high-handed approach to pandemic measures and his insistence on holding the Tokyo Olympics despite widespread opposition because of a high number of coronavirus cases, which have since dropped sharply.
Kishida repeatedly stressed his determination to listen to the people and to address criticism that the nine years led by Suga and Shinzo Abe had fanned corruption, tamed bureaucrats and muzzled opposing opinions.
On the economy, Kishida has emphasized growth by raising income, while opposition groups focus more on redistribution of wealth and call for cash payouts to pandemic-hit low-income households. Kishida, during the campaign, promised to spur growth and “distribute its fruit” to the people as income.
A Japanese government panel on Monday drew up a priority list of proposals aimed at implementing a new form of capitalism to spur the economy, as advocated by Prime Minister Kishida Fumio.
The list highlights tasks for the Kishida Cabinet to tackle with the aim of igniting a virtuous cycle of growth and distribution.
The government is urged to foster sustainable capitalism while trying to narrow the gap between rich and poor.
The panel argues against leaving everything to the market to decide. It instead calls for the creation of an economy fit for a new age through collaboration between the government and the private sector.
The government is also called on to provide financial and other forms of support for young, talented researchers on an ongoing basis, to promote a shift to a more science and technology-oriented nation.
The panel says that the government should embrace renewable sources of energy as much as possible to help achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
The list also details a possible expansion of tax breaks for large companies that have injected capital into start-ups and large subsidies for regional digitalization initiatives such as robot -delivery networks in remote areas.
To promote a broad-based distribution of wealth, the panel urges greater tax breaks for firms willing to raise salaries not for new hires but those already on the payroll.
Kishida told the panel there has been a shift in various parts of the world toward a new capitalism that values sustainability and people, and that also aims to propel new investment and growth.
He said the panel has come up with priority proposals so Japan can lead this movement globally. He went on to say that he wants to launch this new capitalism by carrying out the tasks listed in the proposal as part of a new economic package.
He added that he aims by spring of next year to lay out a comprehensive framework of measures to bring this new capitalism into being, which he hopes will draw worldwide attention.
Japan has started issuing new 500-yen coins, made with the latest anti-counterfeiting technology. It’s the coin’s first revamp in more than two decades.
The Bank of Japan began using the coins on Monday in payments to financial institutions. They are the same size and have a similar design to the previous coins, but are made with three types of metal. The old version is made solely of nickel.
The new coin is also designed with intricate details to prevent counterfeiting. It features two distinct sections, a silver central portion and a golden outer ring, which the Mint says is hard to replicate. And the exterior rim is marked with irregular ridges. The old coins have even markings.
The Finance Ministry had initially planned to put the coins into circulation around September. But the rollout was pushed back as the pandemic led to delays in modification work on ATMs.
The ministry will issue 200 million new 500-yen coins in the current fiscal year through March.
Update on the Netherlands
On Tuesday 2 November, outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte and outgoing Minister Hugo de Jonge (Public Health) announced a series of measures to slow down the number of corona infections, which are into effect today. Additional measures may be announced on Friday 12 November.
The corona pass was already mandatory in the catering industry, casinos and at certain events and cultural locations such as theaters or cinemas. From Saturday, the corona pass (QR code) is also mandatory in locations such as museums and outside on terraces. The pass must also be presented when playing sports in indoor venues, such as gyms, gyms and swimming pools, and before entering locker rooms and other indoor facilities. The public at these locations must also be in possession of a valid QR code.
Ultimately, it is also the intention that amusement parks and zoos will ask for a corona pass. There is also a plan to ask for corona passes in higher education in the near future.
From Saturday it is also mandatory again to wear a face mask in supermarkets and other stores. The shops fall under publicly accessible indoor spaces, where you must wear a mask. This should also be done in public indoor spaces such as town halls. In addition, people with or with a contact profession, such as the hairdresser, have to wear a mouth cap again.
Wearing a face mask on public transport remains mandatory. Wearing a face mask on platforms and stations and in colleges, universities and secondary education schools is also required again when moving through the building. Wearing a face mask does not apply in places where a corona pass is mandatory.
The number of hospital and IC admissions has risen sharply again in the past week, according to figures from the RIVM. That is bad news in view of Friday, the moment when the outgoing cabinet considers whether new corona measures are necessary. The number of positive tests rose by 45% to almost a record number.
The effect of the measures announced last week cannot yet be measured on Friday. These measures were taken to reduce the exploding number of infections in the long run. According to RIVM top woman Aura Timen, it will certainly take “weeks” before a stabilization becomes visible.
The ministers wanted to take until 12 November to monitor the hospital admissions. The most pressing question is whether hospital admissions will increase in line with the sharply increasing numbers of positive tests. So there is in any case a new strong increase.
Healthcare has made it clear several times in the past week that the system is in danger of becoming overloaded. On Tuesday, Limburg hospitals sounded the alarm about the impending “code black”. Doctors in the emergency department already did this before. Several hospitals also had to introduce (temporary) admission stops because they could no longer handle the number of (corona) patients.
Hospital directors are now arguing for extra corona measures and an accelerated deployment of the booster shot. According to the current schedule, the first people over eighty will receive the extra vaccine dose in December. De Jonge has promised to see if that moment can be brought forward. The GGDs have already announced that they can be ready.
European countries can already start using the corona pill from pharmaceutical company MSD before the entire approval process is completed. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) in Amsterdam announced this on Thursday. The organization says it is prepared to advise the countries in this regard.
The EMA is watching the trials of the pill, which was approved in Great Britain on Thursday. This monitoring is called a rolling review and is the last step before MSD actually applies for admission. The EMA cannot indicate when that final decision will be made.
The drug is called molnupiravir. People who test positive for the corona virus can take the pill to control the corona symptoms and prevent serious complaints. This should help reduce the number of hospital admissions and deaths.
The pill attacks the enzyme the coronavirus uses to multiply. The components of the pill cause errors in the enzyme’s genetic code, which means that it can no longer reproduce properly. This keeps the virus values in the body low and the complaints mild. The drug also does not care about virus mutations.
A disadvantage of this type of drug is that it must be taken before the virus arrives in the tissues and organs. Also, it only works for a short period of time. So you have to take several pills for a number of days in a row.
The pill would reduce the risk of hospitalization by 50%, according to a study sponsored by the Merck company. Merck, the parent company of MSD, has tested the pill on 775 people. The participants had tested positive for the coronavirus, had mild complaints and belonged to a risk group, for example due to being overweight or age. The subjects took a pill every 12 hours for five days. Half received molnupiravir, the other half a placebo to compare the results.
Of the people who received molnupiravir, about 7% ended up in the hospital. Of those who received a placebo, 14% had to be hospitalized. No one died from the effects of the corona virus in the group that received molnupiravir, eight corona-related deaths were registered in the placebo group.
The British regulator reported earlier in the day that the corona pill has been approved for Great Britain. The European Commission emphasizes that vaccination remains the best way out of the pandemic, but that effective medicines are also needed.
Electronics store MediaMarkt is struggling with a major cyber attack, with the criminals demanding 50 million dollars (converted 43 million euros) in ransom to release the hostage systems of the group, writes RTL Nieuws on Tuesday.
MediaMarkt is still negotiating a payment with the attackers. Hive, a hacker group that tries to break into computer systems at companies and then hijack files in exchange for ransom, is said to be behind the attack. That ransom must then be paid in bitcoin.
According to RTL Nieuws, Hive may have taken thousands of computers and servers of MediaMarkt hostage. The computers read that the network has been hacked and that the data has been encrypted. “To regain access to all data, you need to purchase our decryption software.”
Several European MediaMarkt affiliates were affected by the attack. There are also Dutch shops. Although the stores will remain open despite the cyber attack, it would not be possible to collect or return products because computers in the stores are unusable.
A spokesperson for MediaMarkt says in a reaction that he is “surprised” by the article from RTL Nieuws. “We are currently conducting intensive investigations and it is not yet possible to say exactly what type of attack it was.”
Thousands of people around the world gathered on Saturday 6 November to draw attention to climate change. On the Global Day for Climate Justice, protests were held in Amsterdam and Glasgow, where the United Nations climate summit was being held. In Southeast Asia and Australia, the demonstrations had already ended while in Europe the demonstrations continued.
About a thousand people demonstrated in the largest Australian cities, Melbourne and Sydney, on Saturday as part of the global day of action. Demonstrations were also held earlier on Saturday in the Philippines, Indonesia and South Korea.
In Europe, people have taken to the streets in Glasgow, Brussels, Paris and Amsterdam. Among the thousands of demonstrators, many were young people and parents with children. The police estimate that about 40,000 people participated in the march in Amsterdam. This is in line with the organization’s estimate. According to the police, the demonstration passed without significant incidents. No arrests took place, a spokesperson said.
Update on Dujat & Members
Update about the Dujat December Dinner: after last week’s press conference, we discussed with Hotel Okura Amsterdam and concluded that with the current measures it will still be possible to organize the event.
Corona passes will be checked at the entrance and it is also important that all guests can show their ID when asked; those who reserved a table have already received information about this. If there are any updates, more information to all guests will be sent after the press conference on Friday.
If your company has any news to share in the next biweekly newsletter, let us know by sending an e-mail to email@example.com.
Jinn van Gastel
Project Manager at Dujat
DUJAT (Dutch and Japanese Trade Federation)
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