What's been going on with the coronavirus pandemic in Japan, Shukan Gendai (Aug 22-29) wants to know. Will a second wave be upon us soon, or are we still seeing the effects of the first wave? Or is all this wave stuff just a distraction from trying to comprehend an infuriatingly complex problem?
The weekly magazine conducted a survey of 100 "prominent physicians" (by its definition) around the country, in which it solicited their learned views regarding the present and future situation of the pandemic.
Take the remarks by this Tokyo-based doctor in his 60s, who operates his own hospital. "The coronavirus calamity right now has become chaotic, and I myself, as a physician, am at a loss on what to do about it."
He continues: "I see some of experts talking about it on the afternoon TV 'wide shows.' They tend to exaggerate, which aggravates the fears of their audience. I've had a bellyful of them. They've been driving patients to our hospital saying, 'Since yesterday I've felt sort of spaced out. Can it be that I'm going to die from the coronavirus?' These days nobody knows who to believe or not to believe."
With the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus infections in Japan now past the 62,000 mark, speculation on what's coming next may very well be a case of too many chefs spoiling the broth. Which brings us to the first question of the survey: How much longer will the coronavirus continue to spread in Japan? The response was not encouraging: 58% of the doctors said they expected it to continue beyond 2022. Another 9% said it would end in 2022; 19% said by the second half of 2021; and 11% by the first half of 2021; Only 3% believed it will be gone within the present year.
The doctors were also asked in what places or situations should people wear masks? While aboard public transportation was the highest, so stated by 75%. Next came in supermarkets (65%); when meeting people for a meal (30%); and when outdoors, such as on the street or in a park (15%). Ten percent of the respondents didn't think masks were necessary anywhere.
As for the actions by Tokyo Gov Yuriko Koike in dealing with the pandemic, 42% of the doctors voiced favorable views, as opposed to 58% who viewed her unfavorably. In contrast, Dr Harue Okada, whose frequent appearances on TV Asahi's "Morning Wide" show have earned her the nickname "Queen of Corona," earned a thumbs down from 82% of the respondents.
Three more questions were posed to the survey participants. 1: "Are Japanese developing a "herd immunity" to the coronavirus?" To which 45% replied no; 15% said yes; and 40% stated they didn't know. 2. "Are you yourself afraid of contracting the coronavirus?" To which 59% replied yes and 41% said no. And to the question "Do you think Tokyo should host the Olympics next year?" 67% believed it should be cancelled; 17% said it should be postponed; and 16% replied they though it should be held as scheduled.
"Unless the coronavirus mutates into something less lethal, like what happened with SARS, I suppose that in 10 years’ time contracting it will become akin to the common cold," remarked Dr Kazuhiro Nagao of the Nagao Clinic in Osaka, who stated he did not anticipate a sharp increase in fatalities.
"We'll know soon enough whether or not the precautions we're taking are working," he added.
Even when it doesn't kill, however, the virus right now is still a nasty piece of work, although not for the reasons you might think.
"If I were to contract the coronavirus, rumors would spread throughout the community, and it's likely I'd be subjected to discrimination. If a physician contracts the virus, his institution would have to shut down for at least two weeks. That could very well drive it to bankruptcy.
"So for doctors, in a sense, the way people discriminate is scarier than the virus itself."© Japan Today