quote of the day

In its battle with the coronavirus, Japan appears to be doing everything wrong. It has tested just 0.185 percent of its population, its social distancing has been halfhearted, and a majority of Japanese are critical of the government’s response. Yet with among the lowest death rates in the world, a medical system that has avoided an overloading crisis, and a declining number of cases, everything seems to be going weirdly right.


Foreign Policy magazine writer William Sposato

© Foreignpolicy.com

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

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While testing has been a problem, I think that people did practice social distancing as much as they could, and they were already in the habit of wearing masks and washing their hands, so I don't think this is as much a surprise or outlier as some would like to think!

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Can't tell that to many of the posters and people of this country. They really think that it has something to do with how great (not) the people here are about hand washing, bowing, etc. Let's just chalk it up to pure dumb luck. However, I am grateful for that.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Testing has been a huge problem, social distancing, it depends, not great, not enforced, I often had to remind people to keep their distance from me, a lot of people and kids not wearing masks or practicing safe distancing, even rushing to re-open schools, restaurants and malls as if nothing has happened, no phased or strict rules or guidelines put in place in dealing with easing back into society, so I wouldn’t call it right not exactly, be more transparent with the medical data and then we can take it from there.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

Or maybe Japan has done a lot of things right, just not things that Western “experts” recommended. Experts started this crisis telling us that this new virus posed no real threat. Then they pivoted and started saying it would kill millions if we didn’t quarantine everybody. The experts were wrong in both counts.

Japan, meanwhile, set a reasonable goal of containing the disease. The system put in place early that ranked public gatherings based in three factors (large numbers of people, close quarters, indoors), and that called on people to progressively avoid situations with multiple factors, seems to have worked. Japanese people effectively social distanced on their own, without draconian government lockdowns. Discouraging travel between prefectures also seems to have been largely effective.

When new cases have been found, Japan has also been largely effective in tracing hotspots and isolating them.

Yes, there have been a few idiots in Japan, like the dentist who flew to Hokkaido after his wife tested positive, but before his own test came back, or certain pachinko parlors that stayed open, even as other businesses voluntarily closed or went remote. Overall, though, by being less draconian, Japan has ensured greater compliance with restrictions.

Japan also didn’t commit the deadly folly like New York did of requiring nursing homes to accept COVID-positive patients, which alone accounted for several thousand deaths.

Everyone agrees that Abe masks were stupid and feckless. Get past that silliness, however, and there are a lot of policies that Japan seems to have gotten right, at least so far, and these policies have been reasonable decisions, not weird luck.

-1 ( +8 / -9 )

I totally disagree.


This pretty much sums up the reality of all this madness. Now it all makes perfect sense why they bungled this and continue to bungle this.


The main answer seems to be that Japan has not conducted extensive coronavirus testing, especially in comparison to countries such as South Korea and Italy, which have aggressively tested people for the virus. This may have to do with Japan’s policy-making system. The Japanese prime minister and Cabinet Office increased their power to make policy as a result of administrative reforms since the 1990s, while the power of bureaucrats and MPs declined to some extent. 

Yet despite this, Japan’s policy towards the coronavirus seems to be centred on discussions at expert meetings under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW). Although the office of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe played a role in making decisions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus by convening several meetings, those decisions were based on the MHLW’s expert policy recommendations.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

The truth is that the more lethal strain just ain't here, yet.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

The truth is that the more lethal strain just ain't here, yet.

Yeah! weird luck.

Hope that vaccine comes first.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Reckless - could be.

In simple science there have been many mutations identified and 3 broad strains recognized - A, B & C.

Apparently A has hit the US more widely, B is concentrated in EU and C in more so in Asia - so I've read.

Scientists say there is little difference between the impact of the strains, but a quick scan of stats, hints that that may not be the whole story.

Then there is a further wildcard that appeared last week - gargling. A bit squirrely, but just something else to note to explain differences in nations succumbing to the virus - and Japan for one is a gargling nation.

"...A group of scientists has called for urgent research into whether readily-available mouthwash could be effective in reducing SARS-CoV-2 transmission.

The group carried out a review of scientific research in this area, published today in the journal Function, to assess whether mouthwash could have the potential to reduce transmission in the early stages of infection.

The researchers from Cardiff University’s School of Medicine, along with the universities of Nottingham, Colorado, Ottawa, Barcelona and Cambridge’s Babraham Institute included virologists, lipid specialists, microbicide and healthcare experts, while industry partners provided global formulation information. The review was led by Professor Valerie O’Donnell who was made a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences on Wednesday.

SARS-CoV-2 is an enveloped virus with an outer fatty (lipid) membrane - but the researchers said there had so far been “no discussion” about the potential role of damaging this membrane as a possible way to inactivate the virus in the throat.

It said previous studies had shown that agents commonly found in mouthwashes, such as low amounts of ethanol, povidone-iodine and cetylpyridinium, could disrupt the lipid membranes of several enveloped viruses. It is not yet known whether this could also be the case for this new coronavirus.

The researchers assessed existing mouthwash formulations for their potential ability to disrupt the SARS-CoV-2 lipid envelope - and suggested that several deserve clinical evaluation.

“We highlight that already published research on other enveloped viruses, including coronaviruses, directly supports the idea that further research is needed on whether oral rinsing could be considered as a potential way to reduce transmission of SARS-CoV-2,” the authors said..."

In Australia they have d big success with the standard procedures of social distancing, sanitizing, masks and very strict Isolation / Lockdown practices (laws). In a population of 25million with as of today only 99 deaths, probably indicates that these simple procedures work. So in Japan and other countries, the importance of masks, hand-cleaning and non-touching customs can't be overlooked, as big reasons for keeping numbers - fatalities - down.

Or any number of other reasons???

4 ( +4 / -0 )


"...just not things that Western “experts” recommended."

"Western experts"? The recommendations came from "medical experts" from around the world, including those in Japan.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

mikeylikesit: "Or maybe Japan has done a lot of things right, just not things that Western “experts” recommended."

Nope. But I suppose you're the type who looks at CDC and others' recommendations to wear masks and says, "Well, shucks, THAT is right -- and Japan has taught the world about masks (which would also be wrong), but everything else THEY say but Japan DOESN'T do is wrong!" So, selective recommendations.

The fact is, as another poster put it, if the numbers are to be believed, it is indeed just dumb luck. The people here, much to the chagrin of a Japanese who believes otherwise, are not unique in terms of their bodies; they don't have lower body temperatures, have unique DNA, etc. There is nothing that they are doing differently. On the contrary, with the highest population density in the world Japan should have been the epicenter very quickly, especially with the idea that the virus will negotiate and leave you alone when you go to work on packed trains so long as you don't go out and socialize at night or weekends (unless you're working... then the virus understands). So, there are only two possible explanations: due to Japan being the worst tester in the world, the numbers they give are simply not reflective of reality. There are likely far more infected and that have died, and the people have just stayed home and the deaths been attributed to something else. Since they are not tested, a case cannot be confirmed, and the number not counted. The second, which I think ties into the first, is that the people here are better than their counterparts abroad in many countries in obeying the recommendations of the government and local officials. While there are obvious standouts like the pachinko parlors, they are an exception and very different from, say, huge swaths of Americans who hold anti-mask protests and "liberation" meetings, publicly defying the laws and suggestions of their officials, and lo-and-behold the US leads the world in infection and death (and they are testing more, so the numbers show it as well). But if you want to go that route and tout the nation as law-abiding people who take safety seriously, they still "lose" to Taiwan, whose people have managed to both obey laws/suggestions and also use common sense and do testing, and they rightly have a reputation for having handled this well, and their numbers can be believed. Korea is best known for their ability to track and quickly come up with tests and numbers, as another example. Japan? sorry... it all points mostly to dumb luck and the numbers not reflecting reality.

1 ( +7 / -6 )

On the surface it looks as though Japan is winning the battle against the virus. But there maybe a higher number of asymptomatic cases out there. So the government really needs to step up its testing measure.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

It has tested just 0.185 percent of its population

That, plus the stories of overloaded hospitals with insufficient supplies, should at least prevent people from jumping to ANY conclusion regarding the virus.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

This just proves how all the fear mongers and panic drivers got it all wrong and created a situation where the "cure" was worse than the disease.

-7 ( +4 / -11 )

It's quite remarkable indeed...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japan did a great job.

Japan is clean. They bathe everyday, take off their shoes, have large sinks in the hallways in schools, have the oshibori culture, never touch each other and keep their houses and toilets clean. No one spits on the ground. You won't find gum on the street. Also they eat good food and are in good shape. Very low obesity rate.

Their culture of cleanliness and health is what I think beat the virus.

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

Japan? sorry... it all points mostly to dumb luck and the numbers not reflecting reality.

I hope you're not a scientist!

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Their culture of cleanliness and health is what I think beat the virus.

The way you paint Japan you would think that no one ever gets a cold here. The common cold has an R0 of about one, and they seem to be just as common in Japan as elsewhere. So while parts of Japanese culture world likely limit the spread of the disease, it seems hard to attribute it as the sole factor making the difference.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

The problem with "testing" is that you pretty much have to do it randomly, especially in Tokyo. I mean, if some hospital just announced "hey, we're doing testing" then hundreds or thousands of people show up and cause all kinds of social distancing problems, huge lines, crowded trains and a traffic nightmare. Thus, the logistics of it aren't very easy, especially in large cities. In smaller towns and cities, there really isn't a problem with Covid-19, so there is no point in doing it. So to all those "Japan needs to test more" people, come up with a safe orderly plan and I'll support it.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

We could debate until hell freezes over with the benefit of hindsight, the actions Governments, could, would or should have adopted.

Generally, J people/population, notwithstanding a number of corona-tose brain dead who wouldn’t respect, or in some cases even comprehend the logic behind social distancing, suffice to say the majority took the initiative and saved lives.

Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat, or perhaps just a lucky break.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

On the surface it looks as though Japan is winning the battle against the virus. But there maybe a higher number of asymptomatic cases out there. So the government really needs to step up its testing measure.

Another doomsday monger who believes that extensive random testing is the only solution.

Asymptomatic cases maybe out there but it also means there is a reason for that certain case to be asymptomatic possibly a weaker strain that will provide immunity to the ones who are infected to the deadlier strain, like the small pox vs cow pox. That is how human-kind first obtained vaccination.

Statistics will tell you the potential amount of people who may have contracted the deadlier disease and the J government had heightened the accuracy through selective testing based on criteria isolating the deadly strain from the public.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Any government that let people off a cruise ship with hundreds of infected people to get on trains and cabs to go home is nothing but a failure. Doing nothing for two months was a failure. Only testing if someone clearly has the disease was a failure. Japan is recovering from COVID due to factors beyond the ability of the Abe government to screw up. But at least Abe is not recommending people drink bleach.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Only testing if someone clearly has the disease was a failure. Japan is recovering from COVID due to factors beyond the ability of the Abe government to screw up.

You think?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yet with among the lowest death rates in the world, . . .

No one has any clear idea of how many infections or deaths at this point. The latter is largely the case because they aren't bothering to test those who have died, primarily the elderly, for CoVid. In part, it's the same as a refusal to do autopsies in criminal cases - it raises uncomfortable circumstances.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Indeed. The lack of testing, social distancing measures and communication measures by the government seems less than most other (developed) countries.

Japan, when compared to the Netherlands ( fairly high testing, but little or no social distancing, poor communicating from the government, with a higher infection/death-rates than Denmark and other neighbors) or South Korea (high testing, high communication and targeted quarantine, with a lack of lockdown) , seems to have done little or nothing.

Regardless of how one infers the stats, the lack of testing in Japan leaves its data open for scrutiny and/or a lack of trust, which in turn creates a valid reason to also question the preventative measures, as compared to the rest of the world.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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