How Japan’s Government Has Successfully Dealt With COVID-19

29.03.2020 - 15:29 | 1804766

Artikel von Asia Presswire

As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc across continents, choosing no one, disregarding race, age, and gender, we all just want to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Many first world countries continue to be inundated with scores of new cases and numerous deaths, but in the midst of this chaos, one nation seems to be holding its own against the virus quite well - Japan.

After the cruise ship Diamond Princess debacle, when Japan was thrown under the spotlight and received extremely unfair flak over its handling of the situation, the country has proven that it is more than capable of dealing with COVID-19. While the Japanese government were limited by jurisdiction issues inherent to international cruise ships, following this incident the government has displayed composure under pressure by providing the care needed to the passengers. In fact, the cruise ship''s passengers have expressed their gratitude to the government for using national resources to unquestioningly provide treatment, regardless of nationality.

Since the first case of corona virus was confirmed in January, Japan has avoided the unfortunate situation of countries such as Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States. Even more impressive is the fact that the government did not have to result to extreme measures such as severe lockdown for its citizens, and yet the infection rate is relatively low in comparison.

As of March 26, the World Health Organization''s situation report indicates 1,291 total confirmed cases, 98 total confirmed new cases, 45 total deaths, and 2 total new deaths in Japan. Taking into consideration its'' geographic proximity to China - the source of the virus - these numbers are extremely impressive, when compared to the rest of Asia, Europe and the US.

With a total population of 126,575,350, how has Japan managed to control the virus from spreading exponentially and keep the number of casualties so low?

Decisive and selective action by the government

Perhaps the most obvious answer is that the government has not conducted extensive mass testing, especially compared to the above-mentioned countries and regions. In the early stages, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) only allowed polymerase chain reaction tests - and only in public health establishments. For this kind of test, results take three to six hours. Private testing, which was then considered prone to inaccurate results, was not allowed. With the limited number of testing kits, mass testing proved to be impossible.

This point of limited testing is at the core of the arguments from the opponents and critics of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe''s government. Indeed, if this was the sole consideration, then one might be able to say that Japan''s low numbers are deceptive.

However, this is only one piece of the puzzle, and earlier this month, the government has opened up testing to private hospitals. This kind of testing involves simpler kits which deliver faster results. Combined with the government''s move to cover COVID-19 testing under national health insurance, testing has become widespread and free of charge.

Moreover, according to Dr. Tomoya Saito, the director of the Department of Health Crisis Management (under the National Institute of Public Health), the lack of mass testing is a well thought out strategy. Instead of testing just anyone randomly, they only accept individuals who have referrals from accredited doctors. These would be individuals who have experienced symptoms (especially fever) for two to four days. With the country''s policy of immediately admitting patients who test positive into hospitals, this method helps ensure that only those in urgent need of hospital care are taken in. Therefore, the Japanese healthcare system is not placed under unnecessary pressure and critical COVID-19 patients are better treated, and given a higher chance of returning back to full health.

Another contributing factor to Japan''s low infection rate is the Prime Minister Abe''s decisive and early move, in contrast to the US and the UK, to shut down schools until after the spring break, as well as canceling all mass gatherings and events. This decision by Prime Minister Abe was made without consulting his own party, or the opposition parties, which would have inevitably slowed things down. Abe was heavily criticized at the time from all sides, but his decisiveness in this matter has undoubtedly saved countless lives. Comparing this to other countries where it took so long for governments to officially announce school and event cancelations, is one big reason why Japan is doing better with its'' relatively low rate of infection. By doing so, continuous close contact was avoided early on, and given how contagious COVID-19 is, this decision has had a massively positive impact on the safety of Japanese citizens.

Handing the reigns to the experts

The common response to this unprecedented pandemic by Heads of State is to seek extra power to impose policies to curb the spread of the virus. The difference with Prime Minister Abe and his administration, is that they have handed over the reins to the experts - the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW). While Prime Minister Abe still holds a vital role in approving and implementing policies and strategies, he has limited the political games by allowing health experts to do their jobs and in doing so, empowered and protected the Japanese people.

Japanese culture

For most people, wearing masks is a novel thing. For many Japanese, this is nothing new. One could say that they have a "mask culture", as it is natural for them to wear face masks when sick or even if they are merely suffering from allergies. For the Japanese, it is common courtesy to wear a face mask to avoid spreading germs, for example, in trains and in the work place.

Quite unrelated to health reasons - yet just as effective in not annoying or scaring one''s peers with a noisy, wet sneeze or cough - is how some teenagers wear face masks to avoid people talking to them. Extreme and anti-social it may seem, but this new aspect to mask culture has probably helped contain the spread of COVID-19 within Japan.

Additionally, the Japanese are well-known for their particular attention personal hygiene. As experts have been saying from day one - good hygiene is key to fighting this virus. Or any virus for that matter.


It should not come as a surprise that Japan is at the forefront of innovation when it comes to finding solutions to fight coronavirus. As new cases soar and death tolls rise all around the world, the Japanese-made anti-flu medicine favipiravir (also known as Avigan) is making headway in treating COVID-19 patients. Already approved as medication for flu, Avigan is being tested in Wuhan and Shenzen (China) on COVID-19 patients. So far, results are encouraging, with the duration of being positive with the virus shortened and significantly improving lung related conditions.

It is easy - and sometimes even understandable - to criticize and nitpick, but now, more than ever, is the time to see past political differences and affiliations. It is the time to look at facts, hard numbers, give credit where it is due, and follow in the footsteps of those who are making a positive difference in these challenging times. It is only fair to commend Prime Minister Abe and his government for how they have handled the crisis, as well as how they are tapping into their signature innovativeness to combat this pandemic.

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