I often get asked questions about the coronavirus epidemic in Japan. The following is Part One of a four-part post with my take on Japan’s experience to date. It is based on information from government, medical and media sources.
Japan’s COVID-19 Response –– Part 1
A year after the first confirmed domestic case of COVID-19, Japan now finds itself in the middle of a troubling third wave of infections. The cumulative number of cases in the country recently exceeded 310,000. Tokyo, a metropolitan center of 13.5 million, is the worst affected part of Japan.
The Japanese government’s initial response to the coronavirus pandemic was largely reactive. Japan did not impose a compulsory lockdown because the government does not have that authority. And, it carried out little virus testing.
The government instead advocated a “3 C’s” concept. Built on traditional Japanese behavior patterns and etiquette, such as wearing face masks and little communal physical contact such as shaking hands, it asked the population to avoid closed spaces with poor ventilation; crowded places; and close-contact settings. Indeed the strategy helped Japan to hold down its case count and maintain a degree of normal business and economic activity.
However, some critics have said that Japan’s initial relative success was not due to prudent measures, but rather pure luck, noting that while the approach may have slowed the spread of the virus it may have also led to a false sense of reassurance.