Weekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 22, 2021

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Australian softball team first to arrive in Japan for Olympics.

Update on Japan

Department stores, large cinemas and amusement parks in Tokyo and Osaka Prefecture reopened as of Tuesday 1 June.

Coronavirus restrictions on some businesses were partially eased under the extended state of emergency until 20 June. Such businesses had complained of a severe impact after being requested to close partly or fully in late April when the current virus emergency was introduced.

The government of Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide set new guidelines for them when it extended the virus emergencies in nine prefectures last week, aiming to strike a balance between curbing coronavirus infections and reviving the battered economy.

Under the guidelines, department stores are permitted to operate fully on weekdays with shortened business hours while continuing to be limited on weekends to opening food halls and sections selling daily necessities.

In Osaka and Tokyo, all department stores run by Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings Ltd and H2O Retailing Corp, the operator of the Hankyu and Hanshin department stores, fully resumed weekday operations from Tuesday.

Theme park Universal Studios Japan in Osaka restarted business the same day for the first time since its closure on 25 April, and will also open only on weekdays and remain closed on weekends.

Currently, a state of emergency is in force in 10 prefectures in total, with the measure extended in nine of them, including Tokyo and Osaka, from the previous end date on Monday. Okinawa Prefecture was the latest to come under the measure.

The Japanese government plans to accelerate its coronavirus vaccination drive by gradually shifting its focus from the elderly to other groups.

The government is considering offering vaccinations at workplaces and university campuses as early as the middle of June. More elderly people became eligible Monday for vaccinations at large state-run inoculation venues in Tokyo and Osaka. A large center was also opened in Kobe.

Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide met industry minister Kajiyama Hiroshi and education minister Hagiuda Koichi to discuss ways to expand the vaccination campaign beyond the elderly. The government wants businesses to secure the personnel and space to administer vaccines to their employees. It hopes that the corporate vaccination drive will also cover workers’ family members and make use of the Moderna vaccine.

Additionally, Japan has adopted a long-term strategy to catch up with the US and Europe in the development and production of vaccines. The ongoing pandemic has highlighted the need for the country to strengthen its ability to develop vaccines domestically.

The strategy was approved by the Cabinet on Tuesday. It calls for setting up top-level research and development centers for advanced studies, and a government scheme to strategically distribute funding. Networks for clinical studies are to be expanded in Asia so that large-scale clinical trials can be conducted smoothly in the region.

The government will also consider purchasing vaccines developed by private companies if outbreaks of new infectious diseases occur. Ahead of the cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Suga told a healthcare panel that he wants all relevant ministers to work together under the strategy so the nation can firmly respond to infectious diseases, including COVID-19.

Suga plans to explain the strategy at an online summit on vaccines on Wednesday. Japan will co-host the event with an international group promoting coronavirus vaccinations in developing nations.

The first overseas athletes have arrived in Japan for the Olympics. The Australian women’s softball team landed in Narita Airp​ort on Tuesday, ahead of the start of a pre-Games training camp it is holding north of Tokyo.

The opening ceremony on 23 July of the delayed Tokyo Olympics is drawing nearer. The International Olympic Committee is insistent that the Games take place as planned, and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga says authorities will do their utmost to ensure a “safe and secure” event.

Japanese athletes and staff set to take part in the Tokyo Olympics have begun receiving coronavirus vaccines. Teams taking part in the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics are getting vaccines for free, from Pfizer and other pharmaceutical companies. The Japanese Olympic Committee has designated about 1,600 athletes who are on or are likely to be on the national squad, their coaches and staff members as eligible for the shots.

The inoculations began on Tuesday at the National Training Center in Tokyo so as not to impact the vaccine rollout for the elderly currently underway in Japan. The jabs are administered mostly by the team doctor for each sport.

On Tuesday, about 30 players and staff members from Australia arrived at Narita Airport, near Tokyo. They are among the first foreign athletes to land in Japan, and will stay in the city of Ota, Gunma Prefecture, north of Tokyo, until 17 July to prepare for their first game at the Olympics.

City officials say the players and staff were vaccinated before coming to Japan, and that they will be tested for the coronavirus every day during their stay in the city. The officials pledged a range of measures to reduce infection risks, including asking the athletes to refrain from going out, except shuttling between their hotel and a training venue.

Seafood production in Japan has hit a record low for the second straight year.

The fisheries ministry says the output of marine products last year edged down 0.5% from the previous year to 4.175 million tons. That figure includes farmed marine products. It is the lowest number recorded since 1956, when comparable data became available.

Mackerel output stood at 376,600 tons. That is down 16.4% from a year earlier. The production of salmon fell 0.9% to 55,900 tons. Saury production fell 35.2% to 29,700 tons.

The number for salmon is only 19.5% of the peak figure reached in 1996. The number for saury production is 5.2% of the peak figure marked in 1958.

Meanwhile, the production of sardines rose 25.9% from 2019 to 700,500 tons. The production of scallops grew 1.9% to 346,000 tons.

The fisheries ministry says catches of sauries and other fish remain poor. It says this is due to changes in tidal currents and water temperatures. It adds that demand for farmed oysters has declined, as the coronavirus pandemic has prevented people from dining out.

The Japanese government will include 1,000 hydrogen refueling stations for fuel-cell vehicles deployed across the country by 2030 in a draft of its growth strategy due to be hammered out in June, Nikkei has learned.

The plan to increase the stations sixfold from the current level is part of Tokyo’s goal to have all new car sales be electric by the middle of the next decade. Hydrogen vehicles employ fuel cells to power electric motors and would be included in this target.

The draft also includes a plan to attract advanced semiconductor factories by providing support measures “that are comparable to that of other countries.” Japan has pledged to reduce net carbon emission to zero by 2050.

The draft envisions electric vehicles, including those fueled by hydrogen, “reaching the same level of economy and convenience as gasoline cars by 2030 at the latest.” Convenience would be increased by adding more fast-charging and hydrogen stations, while economy would receive a boost through such measures as purchase subsidies for electric vehicles.

The country currently has about 160 hydrogen stations and has previously pledged to increase that number to 320 by 2025, making the newest target a significant increase.

Update on the Netherlands

Press Conference on 28 May 2021.

As of today, Tuesday 1 June, people born in 1981 are eligible to make an appointment for a corona vaccination. For an overview of the latest developments since our previous news update, please refer to the schedule below.

It is possible to make an appointment online via the website www.coronavaccinatie-afspraak.nl using DigiD, or by phone to 0800 7070 – in this case make sure you have your passport, you will need your social security number (BSN).

Year Since Vaccine
1981 1 June 2021 Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna
1979, 1980 31 May 2021 Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna
1977, 1978 30 May 2021 Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna
1976 29 May 2021 Janssen
1974, 1975 28 May 2021 Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna
1972, 1973 27 May 2021 Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna
1971 26 May 2021 Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna
1969, 1970 25 May 2021 Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna
1967, 1968 22 May 2021 Janssen*

*in our previous newsletter we mentioned Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna for this age group, but the correct vaccine is Janssen which means only one injection.

Please note that if your letter has not arrived yet, you can still already try to make the appointment by phone call. We know from experience this can be done. For Japanese and other non-Dutch speaking members, if you have questions about this, feel free to contact us. It is also advisable to reach out to your HR department.

Step 3 of the reopening plan will take effect from 5 June, outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte and outgoing Minister Hugo de Jonge (Public Health) announced on Friday evening. This includes the following changes:

From that day on, it is again allowed to receive a maximum of 4 guests at home, instead of 2. This group size also applies outside.

Catering establishments will be allowed to stay open for two hours longer: from 6:00 to 22:00. They can also receive a maximum of 50 guests inside. Restaurant visitors must book a table in advance, with a maximum of 4 people with the exception of children up to 12 years old. They are not allowed to sit at the bar.

Museums, theatres and cinemas are allowed to open their doors again. In the previous step, such locations were only allowed to open if this was an outdoor location. Now visitors are allowed inside again. Reservations remain mandatory. Inside, in principle, a maximum group size of 50 people applies, but in some places more people are allowed to come together from Saturday 5 June. For example, in large halls of a thousand seats, a maximum of 250 people can enter.

In addition, sectors may use access coronatests to get even more people in. Up to a third of all seats may then be occupied. That means that in a cinema with 600 available seats,200 people can take a seat. The 1.5 meter rule may will no longer apply in that case, but many cinemas have already said that they do not want to introduce entry tests. “We think it is important that cinema visits remain an accessible outing,” says a spokesperson for Pathé, the largest cinema operator in the Netherlands.

The indoor locations of zoos and amusement parks are also allowed to open again. In addition, casinos, bowling centers, saunas and wellness centers will open.

People over the age of 18 will soon be able to practice sports again without having to keep 1.5 meters away. So you can play football and volleyball again. An exception applies to non-contact sports, such as archery and boot camps. In these sports, the 1.5 meter rule remains mandatory.

Group lessons in gyms may also take place, and showers and changing rooms will reopen. Youth sports will be allowed to have competitions again, but without an audience.

All shops are allowed to open again according to their regular opening hours, and evenings for shopping are allowed again. The rule for shops is: 1 person per 10 square meters. Shops and supermarkets are also allowed to sell alcohol again until 22:00 (extended by two hours).

Those who refused the AstraZeneca vaccine can apply for Pfizer or Moderna vaccine from 5 June – which is sooner than was expected.

On Tuesday, outgoing minister Hugo de Jonge (Public Health) announced this in a letter to the parliament. The 60-64 year olds who refused the AstraZeneca vaccine will soon receive an invitation for vaccination with a different vaccine. He confirmed this to Nieuwsuur on Monday.

Doubts arose about the AstraZeneca vaccine after it was announced that a very rare form of thrombosis and a shortage of platelets were found in a few people under 60 years old. Since April, it has therefore been decided to stop giving people under the age of 60 the AstraZeneca vaccine.

However, some of the over-sixties who could receive the AstraZeneca vaccine through their GP did not want the vaccine either. They were not offered an alternative at that time, and the outgoing cabinet and Health Minister De Jonge said that those vaccine refusers had to wait again “at the back of the queue”. More than 16,000 people signed a petition addressed to Minister De Jonge to allow people over 60 to choose which vaccine they receive.

Vaccination of the Dutch population against COVID-19 is progressing as fast as the average pace in the EU, according to figures from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). The latest data processed by the agency show that 44.1% of EU citizens have now received at least one shot. The Netherlands was slightly above this with 44.9%, ranking 10th place out of 27 EU countries. It should be noted that the percentages are very close to each other. Cyprus is already in 4th place with 49.1%.

More and more hospitals are closing corona departments, and less people are testing positive.

NOS reported this on Sunday after a tour of 51 hospitals. Twenty of the hospitals surveyed say they have recently closed a total of 25 covid wards. In all cases, these are nursing wards where oxygen is administered. Some hospitals have several of those departments and have closed several as well.

In hospitals without a separate corona department, the number of beds for covid patients is already being scaled down.

Things are also going in the right direction in ICUs where people with severe shortness of breath are treated. Diederik Gommers of the Dutch Association for Intensive Care (NVIC) sees this too. “Yes: I am walking in an abandoned covid department today. We were able to close this extra department this week, because the decline has started,” he writes on Instagram.

On average, the number of positive corona tests is also declining, RIVM reported yesterday: an average of 2968 positive tests per day were registered in the past seven days. That is 26% less than the seven days before.

Trains are running again according to the normal timetable on Tuesday, after a massive communication outage on Monday, a spokesperson for rail manager ProRail reports.

It is still not clear what exactly caused the nationwide train failure yesterday. “We know that the malfunction was in the communication network for drivers and traffic control, but it is not yet known what exactly went wrong,” says a spokesperson for rail manager ProRail. He doesn’t consider a hack.

Due to the outage, rail traffic across the country was shut down for a few hours. “Our priority was to get everyone to their destination. We were reasonably successful. Today we are looking at the exact cause.”

When the malfunction arose, all trains could still drive to the nearest platform to let travelers out, because it was not a malfunction of the switches or the overhead wires. “It was still possible to make contact with drivers. But that contact was not as it should be according to the protocols”, says the ProRail spokesman. It was therefore decided to stop train traffic for safety reasons.

In the course of the afternoon the telephone malfunction was resolved and train traffic could be started up step by step. There were no problems when starting the trains, according to the spokesperson.

Smaller carriers, such as Arriva, were also affected by the outage. Investigation has started to look into the cause of the failure.

From Tuesday, you will also pay 15 cents deposit (‘Statiegeld’) on small plastic bottles of less than 0,75 liters.

If you hand small plastic bottles for soft drinks or water in at the supermarket or other sellers, you will receive a 15 cents deposit back. But the old bottles will remain in circulation for a while. This does not include bottles containing juice, syrup or dairy. It has to do with the perishability of the products and the required recycling process.

It is important to know that the old bottles will also be sold in the coming months, without a deposit. So pay attention to whether you buy a bottle with or without a deposit. Bottles that can be returned have a new deposit logo. From 1 July, producers are no longer allowed to make bottles without a deposit logo.

Supermarkets and manned gas stations along the highway are required to collect the bottles, but other plastic bottle sellers are allowed to do so voluntarily. Because many catering businesses have only just reopened, it is difficult to estimate exactly how many outlets will sign up.

The cabinet has been fighting litter for several years now and wants to prevent bottles from ending up on the street or in nature as much as possible, and people will throw away fewer bottles if they can get money by returning them. The collected bottles are recycled and reused.

You will not be fined if you throw the bottles in the trash, but of course you will not get a deposit back. “The money that we are left with will be used, among other things, to improve recycling technology,” said Statiegeld Nederland. “So those who don’t hand in their bottles are contributing to a better system.” If you throw the bottles on the street, you risk a fine.

Nevertheless, it is the intention of Statiegeld Nederland to recycle 90% of the small PET bottles. For large bottles, the organization is already on target.

At the moment you already get money back for small beer bottles from 0.25 to 0.5 liters. You receive 10 cents per bottle, 75 cents for half a crate and 1.50 euros for a whole crate. So for a crate with 24 bottles you get 3.90 euros. That is 24 times 10 cents plus 1.50 euros. For large PET bottles you get 25 cents.

And from Tuesday, small PET bottles will also be added. From 2023 we will also get money back on cans, announced outgoing State Secretary Stientje van Veldhoven (Infrastructure and Water Management) in February.

Healthy food has become more expensive: ‘Government is not doing enough against unhealthy offers’.

The price of healthy food has risen faster than that of unhealthy food such as snacks, sweets and soft drinks, CBS (Statistics Netherlands) reported on Friday. At the same time, half of the Netherlands is overweight. Experts believe that the government should encourage healthy eating more.

So what can you do best as a government? First, introduce a tax on unhealthy food. “The prices of our food have a major influence on what we buy, especially in the Netherlands. Because we love offers,” says Ellen van Kleef, expert in consumer behavior at Wageningen University. “A tax on unhealthy food is one of the most effective measures you can take.”

Just adding an extra tax is not enough, according to Van Kleef. You can also do something about the amount of unhealthy food advertising, the position of foods in the supermarket and the amount of unhealthy food sold.

According to Marnelle Commandeur of the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), this is necessary, “because obesity is a major social problem”. That is why in 2018, in the National Prevention Agreement, measures were laid down to reduce smoking, overweight and problematic alcohol use.

The aim is that by 2040 only 38% of Dutch adults will be overweight. Today, about half of all adults are still overweight. Without additional measures, 62% of adults will be overweight by 2040.

That is why RIVM came up with proposals for additional measures earlier this year. “A sugar tax could be added”, Commandeur explains, “but you can also make healthy food cheaper, restrict the advertising of unhealthy food, or sell unhealthy food in fewer shops. We estimate that the solution consists of a combination of different measures.”

Last year, medical specialists and aldermen from Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht insisted on the so-called sugar tax. Moreover, it appears that a majority of the Dutch are fine with such an extra tax for unhealthy food, if the proceeds are spent on health goals. This is shown by research from the University of Amsterdam.

The Public Health and Society Council is also in favor of an extra tax on unhealthy food. The health opportunities in the Netherlands are now unevenly distributed, the Council noted earlier this year. Depending on your income, you will live 15 years shorter or longer in good health.

Minister Hugo de Jonge of Health, Welfare and Sport wonders whether price is a decisive factor. “It’s a choice people make themselves. You have to unlearn old habits and learn new ones. You can stimulate that through pricing, but I don’t know if that’s such a rational choice.” He wonders if tax will be on someone’s mind when choosing between an apple or a bag of chips at the supermarket.

Worldwide, there are dozens of countries that do levy extra taxes on unhealthy food. The extra tax on sugary drinks, a sugar tax, is especially popular. These taxes have had varying degrees of success: research by the World Health Organization shows that in Mexico 7% less soft drinks are sold after the tax was introduced. In Belgium, the sugar tax had less effect. This may have to do with the level of the tax in relation to the income of the inhabitants.

One sugar tax is not like the other, the RIVM emphasizes. “In the United Kingdom, soft drinks with sweeteners, the diet and zero soft drinks, are not taxed,” says Commandeur. “Those soft drinks do lead to the risk of tooth decay – that is also a negative health effect. It is therefore important to think carefully about what you can and cannot tax with such a sugar tax.”

Update on Dujat & Members

Herewith a brief message from Foodvalley NL inviting you for an event on Japanese-Dutch collaboration in agri-food, in cooperation with our member OostNL:

In the run-up to the Olympic Games, as part of the digital TeamNL Tokyo Expo, Foodvalley NL together with partners is proud to organize an online meeting on 24 June 2021:

“Personalized Nutrition as a Driver of Sport Success”

What you can expect

During program on June 24th 15.15- 18.00 PM Japanese time (8.15 AM – 11.00 AM Dutch time) the relevance and opportunities of personalized nutrition will be highlighted, with sports & nutrition as inspiring example. The online event is designed to provide inspiration, initiate connections and to facilitate international collaboration between Dutch and Japanese businesses on the topic of personalized nutrition.

The program is announced on the Foodvalley website. Just to give you a glimpse of which speakers that will provide their insights during the event:

  • Peter van der Vliet, Ambassador at the Netherland Embassy in Japan and Evert Jan Krajenbrink, Agricultural Counsellor at the Netherlands Embassy in Japan
  • Dr. Kazuo KYUMA, President of The National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO), Japan
  • Prof. Renger Witkamp, Human Nutrition Wageningen University and Eat2Move (NL)
  • Dr. Masuko KOBORI, Head of Human Nutrition, National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO), Japan
  • Dr. Judith van der Horst, Innovation Lead Food & Health Foodvalley NL
  • Pitch presentations by Dutch and Japanese companies
  • Dr. Chris van Hoof, Managing Director, One Planet Research Center
  • Dr. Jeroen Wouters, Global Ecosystem Development Foodvalley NL and Innovation Manager Sports&Nutrition, at Dutch Olympic Training Centre Papendal, The Netherlands.

In a closing interview a Dutch and Japanese elite athlete will provide their insights on the topic and on Japanese and Dutch collaboration. Check out the full program at the Foodvalley website.

Register now!

The following groups are more than welcome to participate in this event:

  • Representatives of Japanese and Dutch companies
  • Knowledge providers
  • Supporting organisations and governments with the ambition and willingness to innovate and collaborate on personalized nutrition with a focus on sports & nutrition

Participation is free of charge but registration is needed. Click here and make sure to save your spot for this event!

The event is co-organised by RVO, Netherlands Embassy in Tokyo, OostNL, Eat2Move, Dutch Olympic Training Center Papendal, Wageningen University & Research, One Planet Research Center.

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

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Sources: Nu.nlNOSRTL NieuwsJapanTodayNHKNikkei Asia