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The programmed end to Japan’s coronavirus ‘Mizaru’ policy

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31.03.2020

Back to Tokyo from a short trip to Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture, where I could see the celebrated “Three monkeys” at the Toshogu Shrine, I cannot refrain from drawing the analogy with the COVID-19 crisis, feeling that Japan has been so far, like the “Mizaru,” avoiding seeing this evil (it should stay on foreign ships), or testing for it (less than 50,000 tests done, despite a daily capacity of 6,000 to 8,000) and preparing to fight it (is there a Plan B, and what is Plan A?).

Recent data show that the virus that has spread around the world is now severely affecting Japan as well, albeit in lesser but rapidly growing proportion.

While Japan was one of the first countries exposed to the new coronavirus, it did not use this “time advantage” to prepare actively for containment measures. The questionable handling of the Diamond Princess quarantine was widely and globally exposed, and the few measures taken were controversial and not well explained at best (the closure of schools nationwide, for example).

This lack of public understanding of government decisions may result from the absence of a reliable and authoritative medical spokesperson, although Japan has a chief medical and global health officer, who would have qualified for this communication role. The lack of transparency of the decision process is also a consequence of the political agenda influence on the public health measures needed: this included protecting the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as well as the frail economic situation of Japan.

The lack of data on the pandemics progression (as a consequence of anecdotal testing so far), on the health system preparedness and on a plan and timelines to fight the virus are preparing the country for difficult times. A delayed........

© The Japan Times