Japan’s cultural strengths not enough to keep increasing coronavirus infections at bay

August 5, 2020

Much can be learned from Japan in how it handled the initial coronavirus outbreak in the country, such as the widespread use of face masks and its culture of hygiene. Then, Japan pushed for the economy too quickly, encouraging domestic events and travel. Japan is now unfortunately facing another ugly outbreak, with no clear end in sight.

A resurgence of cases have led experts to believe that Japan’s reopening was poorly planned, including Yoshihito Niki, a professor of infectious diseases at Showa University’s School of Medicine. “This is the result of the government prioritising economic activity by getting people to move around again over infection control.”

This is particularly detrimental with Japan’s population of 126 million, aged and clustered together in large urban centres – unlike smaller nations, hoping to eradicate the virus early would be nigh on impossible for this country.

In addition, there are accusations of officials misrepresenting data as coronavirus cases spike again and the lack of central responsibility is proving to be counterproductive. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga also said that another state of emergency isn’t required, motivating that the death rate remains low and the Japanese medical system isn’t overburdened.

However, it would be a costly mistake to undermine a high death rate and burdening of the medical system. It would also prove too late to get under control.

“Hospitals can treat the infected,” said Koji Wada, a public health professor at the International University of Health and Welfare in Tokyo. “But only the government, through public health measures, can reduce the number of infected people.”

Local governments in Japan are taking the initiative to contain the latest spread of the coronavirus: in fast-paced cities like Tokyo, bars and recreational hotspots have been asked to shorten operating hours, while in Osaka, authorities are asking people to avoid dining in large groups.

Aside from standard hygiene practices and pooled testing, Chairman Haruo Ozaki, the Head of the Tokyo Medical Association, has called on lawmakers to produce legislation that allows the government to shut down businesses and impose other public health measures.

“This is our last chance to mitigate the spread of infection,” admitted Ozaki.

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