Saturday, March 21, 2020

Why Hasn't There Been A Controlavirus Explosion In Japan?


bloomberg |  Japan was one of the first countries outside of China hit by the coronavirus and now it’s one of the least-affected among developed nations. That’s puzzling health experts.

Unlike China’s draconian isolation measures, the mass quarantine in much of Europe and big U.S. cities ordering people to shelter in place, Japan has imposed no lockdown. While there have been disruptions caused by school closures, life continues as normal for much of the population. Tokyo rush hour trains are still packed and restaurants remain open.

The looming question is whether Japan has dodged a bullet or is about to be hit. The government contends it has been aggressive in identifying clusters and containing the spread, which makes its overall and per capita number for infections among the lowest among developed economies. Critics argue Japan has been lax in testing, perhaps looking to keep the infection numbers low as it’s set to host the Olympics in Tokyo in July.

Japan’s initial slow response to the virus, its handling of the Diamond Princess cruise ship -- where about one in five people aboard became infected while it was quarantined in Yokohama -- and the decision not to initially block travel from China left the nation open to criticism it could become home to a “second Wuhan.” Steps taken to contain the virus -- such as shutting schools and calling off large events -- now look tame in comparison to what others have done.

But as of March 18, Japan has only had a little more than 900 confirmed cases -- excluding the cruise ship. The U.S., France and Germany were all above 7,000 cases and Italy was nearing 36,000. Neighbor South Korea, which tested aggressively amid a surge of confirmed infections from late February, was at about 8,500 cases but its new infections are now tapering off.

In Tokyo, among the world’s most densely packed metropolitan areas, cases made up 0.0008% of the population. The northern main island of Hokkaido, the skiing destination that was Japan’s worst-hit area, is already lifting a state of emergency as new cases have slowed.