Japan has an old population and close contacts with China. How did they contain the coronavirus?



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Japan has an old population and close contacts with China. How did they contain the coronavirus?



Under the cherry trees in the avenues and parks in Japan, the coronavirus was far away last weekend. People were sitting in the shade, enjoying a picnic, drinking beer and taking pictures. “Hanami is the most important thing for us Japanese this year,” says an employee of Ueno Park in Tokyo.

The contrast with Europe cannot be greater. Japan has so far reported 1012 people infected with coronavirus. Of the coronaviruses, 41 people have died and only a few dozen people become infected every day. However, these figures should be far higher as Japan is densely populated, has the highest proportion of seniors in population, and very close contacts with neighboring China. In January, 925,000 Chinese traveled to Japan. In February, there were only 89,000. Nevertheless, the government has taken appropriate action. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has ordered that two weeks before the holidays, schools be closed and all manifestations canceled. However, shops and restaurants remained open, with only a small number of Japanese working from home, Deutsche Welle reports.



Distrust of the government?

The slow spread of Covid-19 initially raised the suspicion that the truth was obscured. “At the onset of the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, the government refused to acknowledge the melting of the nuclear rods, so today there is great distrust in official data,” said sociologist Barbara Holthus of the German Institute for Japanese Studies in Tokyo. Although it has the capacity to run 6000 tests a day, Japan has tested only 14,000 samples, 20 times less than in South Korea, which has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. “Only patients with the most severe symptoms are examined,” says virologist Masahiro Kami of the Medical Governance Research Institute. The number of unreported cases is therefore very high. Political scientist Koichi Nakano said that Prime Minister Abe wanted Japan to be a safe country so he would not lose the Olympics.

Certain experts in the Ministry of Health categorically reject such criticism. Instead of tests being performed nationwide, emphasis is placed on the places where the disease most commonly erupts. For example, after an outbreak occurred at a primary school in the north of Hokkaido, it was decided to close all schools and declare a state of emergency. After three weeks, the virus stopped spreading. “A small number of tests should ensure that medical devices remain available for more serious infections,” says German political scientist Sebastian Maslow of the University of Tokyo.

Inclination instead of handling

Japanese observers also point out other peculiarities. First, the inclination reduces the risk of infection, no handling or kissing on the cheek. On the other hand, the population has been disciplined to adhere to basic hygiene rules from an early age. “Washing your hands, washing our throats with disinfectant and wearing masks are all part of our daily routine, no coronavirus is required,” says one Japanese woman, who is a mother of two. That is why it has been easy to switch to anti-infectious mode since February. Since then, hand sanitizers have been installed at the entrances to all shops and other establishments. Wearing masks has become a civic obligation.

Even before the new coronavirus, 5.5 billion face masks were used in Japan annually. Which means 43 masks per person. Demand for protective masks has increased so much that they have run out of stores. New goods were being sold rationally. In front of the shops, people stood patiently in line. Many stores offer fabric pieces and coffee filters with instructions for making your own masks.

“The Japanese clearly understood that the infection could remain symptom-free,” says German manager Michael Paume, who has lived in Japan for a long time. “Put on a mask to protect others and not to transmit the virus yourself.”

“Face mask reduces transmission risk”

Massive use of protective masks seems to slow the spread of the virus. This is indicated by a sharp decline in the number of influenza patients within seven weeks of the Sars-CoV-2 epidemic. “Masks reduce the transmission of viral droplets and aerosols through their carriers,” five Western doctors noted in their scientific work. These include Fabian Svar of the Caesar Research Group in Bonn and Matthias Samwalda of the Medical University of Vienna. In addition to keeping your distance from others and washing your hands, a mouthguard could play an important role in slowing the spread. “Few infections in countries like Japan have proven this,” five experts said.

In light of this success, Japanese Prime Minister Abe decided a week ago not to declare a state of emergency. Since then, the Japanese have returned to normal everyday life in small steps. Schools are starting to work a bit, children sitting at distances in ventilated rooms. The first amusement parks opened. However, the government fears a second wave of contagion. That is why only schools in areas where there are no coronavirus patients could start working at the beginning of the new school year, in early April. Major events are still not held.

The focus was on the danger of foreign visitors. After the South Koreans and EU citizens have no right to enter Japan. Only those who have their place of residence in Japan can enter the country but must remain quarantined for 14 days upon arrival. According to unofficial information, measures are limited by the beginning of April.

Japan has an old population and close contacts with China. How did they contain the coronavirus?

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