I begin to think the Japanese are blinded by their own luck in dodging the deadly spreading of coronavirus. If you ask yourself why is the pandemic not pandemic in Japan, it is either: due to the fact Japanese are diligent or they are hiding the facts which I doubt. It is true they can be challenged by their handling of Fukushima so no one can guarantee the information is 100%.
On January 3, 2020, in Wuhan, a Japanese developed a fever and a slight cough. He apparently returned to Tokyo and passed the Japanese quarantine at the airport because he had taken some medicine in time.
Another friend, a doctor was in Wuhan in early January and was warned by Chinese colleagues about a virus but it was still too premature to have any real opinion.
Later in January is when face masks and hand sanitizers were becoming a must-have accessory as a deadly virus spread, but the only problem was getting a hold on them.
Before the end of January, those infected with a new strain of coronavirus were being warned about passing the disease onto other people. And the saving grace as my wife reminds me was the Chinese government shut down foreign travel overseas. The Chinese authorities stepped up monitoring and disinfection efforts ahead of the lunar new year holiday.
In late January many of the country’s 1.4 billion Chinese people traveled domestically and not overseas. At that time, the WHO was stating “from the information that we have it is possible that there is a limited human-to-human transmission, potentially among families, but it is very clear right now that we have no sustained human-to-human transmission,”. Maria Van Kerkhove, acting head of WHO’s emerging diseases unit sent this message.
The breaking point was on February 7, 2020, when a Chinese doctor named Li Wenliang who warned the nation of a mysterious new virus died shortly after being questioned by Chinese authorities. “Li was one of the very first people in China to raise alarm about the coronavirus, warning his medical school classmates in a chat room last December that patients at his hospital were being quarantined. At the time, he warned of a virus that had symptoms similar to SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, as the coronavirus had not been named and identified yet. He contracted the illness from one of his patients, whom he had been treating for glaucoma, shortly after speaking out about the virus.”
Then in Japan, the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama allowed infections to spread among the ship’s crew and passengers. Kentaro Iwata of Kobe University Hospital, an infectious disease specialist visited the ship during the quarantine and described the procedures onboard as “completely inadequate”.
The outcome of the cruise ship opened the eyes of the authorities in Japan and they started to take action. “Princess Cruises said in a statement that Japan’s ministry of health was the lead authority “defining and executing the testing and quarantine protocols for all guests and crew”, and that the ship was legally obliged to follow the country’s public health and medical instructions.“
On February 27th Prime Minister Abe asked all elementary, junior high and high schools nationwide to close through the students’ spring break, which typically ends in early April. As of recently, local hospitals will begin to accept corona patients so Tokyo is getting well prepared.
Tokyo, as it stands, does not have a serious number of cases and a relatively low number of fatalities. But the damage is being done by just a few who are asymptomatic. The challenge is protecting staff in their workplace because if any staff test positive, the business is forced to close.
Corona’s deadliness is no doubt the invisible, the asymptomatic spread is treacherous and so lockdowns help but do not solve the problem of tackling the bigger problems.
I am not sure when back to normal is expected but the local hospitals remain in jeopardy and nursing staff if infected are all laid off. This causes disruption beyond comprehension and in a city with 30-million inhabitants, you can imagine the chaos it can cause.
Do not underestimate what is going on in China as they are not telling the truth about the pandemic spread. They are getting used to infection rates which we could never accept in the west. In Tokyo time will tell and if the infection rates increase dramatically it will get quieter. Our staff maintains, “we Japanese do not force lockdowns as they do in the west” and we know that is the last resort, a still far-away idea for now.
Managing any pandemic is as tough as hell, and no one can provide answers, only short term solutions until we can bring it under control if there is such a thing. The main objective throughout and after the infection spread is to protect ourselves and our precious planet.