Japan and COVID-19 | Discuss Japan

Infectious Disease Response — to see the forest, not just the trees: What differentiated Japan from the Western countries?

OSHITANI Hitoshi, Professor, Department of Virology, Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine

Interview: Grand challenges posed to humanity by a viral disease

OMI Shigeru, Vice Chair, Novel Coronavirus Expert Meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office, interviewed by Takase Fumihito, editor, Gaiko (Diplomacy)

Building International Cooperation in Infection Control Measures: The Role of Japanese Diplomacy as We Enter the Post-Coronavirus World

SAKABE-MORI Aki, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Tsukuba

What Does “Quality” Mean for Tourism NEW

Shimoji Yoshiro, Chairman of the Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau (OCVB) Interviewed by Yamada Yuichi, General Manager of the Tourism Research Department, Japan Travel Bureau Foundation on October 7, 2020 Developments in Okinawa tourism from spring to September 2020 Yamada Yuichi: Please tell us about developments in Okinawa tourism over the last few months. Shimoji Yoshiro: There was nothing we could do about the national emergency declaration in April and May, but in June and July when we’d finally started to recover, infection spread in an unexpected place, namely nightlife districts. Okinawa has been susceptible to infectious disease due to our social environment. Historically, we have many children and elderly people who often interact, and this was the case during previous epidemics of new strains of influenza or measles. It is a weakness with no solution and we have gone on with 20 or ... [Read more]

Appropriate Use of Teleworking is the Key—The COVID-19 Crisis and Productivity

Morikawa Masayuki, President, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI)   With the steep decline of gross domestic product (GDP) under the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, how much has productivity dropped? The figure below shows month-by-month changes in the overall productivity of the Japanese economy. While production activity in May 2020 was down around 15% compared with the end of 2019, productivity declined only about 3%. Although productivity still remains below the level before the consumption tax rate hike, it recovered to almost the pre-COVID-19 level in August.     Figure. Labor Productivity Under the COVID-19 Crisis   The decline in labor productivity until now has been smaller than might have been expected because labor input, which corresponds to the denominator in the calculation, has dropped steeply in tandem with industrial activity. A breakdown shows that working time adjustments, including reduction of overtime ... [Read more]

“Strong Societies” and “Weak Societies” in the Face of Infectious Diseases: Lessons from the Second Wave—COVID-19 attacks the broken parts of society

Oshitani Hitoshi, Professor, Department of Virology, Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine   Since June, Japan has experienced a COVID-19 “second wave” of considerable magnitude. This was expected to a certain extent, given that people’s movements have not been forcibly restricted as they were in the earlier state of emergency. However, its scale exceeded expectations. Since the peaking of the second wave in late July, the rate of decline has been slower than the first wave in April and May. Eventually, rates of new cases stopped declining and the number of cases began to rise in some prefectures, along with a gradual increase in the number of deaths. The source of the second wave is believed to have been Tokyo, the scale of the outbreak at the source so large that it left an impact across the country. The mechanism by which COVID-19 becomes ... [Read more]

Importance of allocation mechanisms that don’t rely on price adjustment: Rebuilding the concept of markets

Kojima Fuhito, Professor and Director at the University of Tokyo Market Design Center (UTMD) Key points Focusing on the visible hand that replaces traditional price mechanisms Expanding the use of market design for kidney transplants Improving institutional design to eliminate the childcare waiting lists issue   One of the most prominent ideas in economics is Adam Smith’s concept of the “invisible hand.” The invisible hand is the magical mechanism for price adjustment that is capable of maximizing the wealth of society if self-interested consumers and companies respond to the prices of goods and services. With advances of research in economics,  this idea has been elaborated upon. However, neoliberals have also used this phrase to promote deregulation. And yet, no one has ever actually seen the invisible hand. In fact, examples of the price mechanism not working can be found everywhere in society. Although it ... [Read more]

Maintaining Capital in Tourism Sector Urgently Needed

Yoshida Yushi, Professor of Economics, Shiga University   In the 21st century, Japan’s current account (CA) has undergone a sea change. This is partly due to external shocks, namely the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, which depressed global demand, and the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, which caused substantial damage to the domestic production base. The COVID-19 Shock of 2020, however, has had a completely different impact. Broadly speaking, CA can be divided into the balance of trade, services, and income. The balance of trade is the difference between the value of exports and the value of imports; the balance on services is the difference between country’s inbound travel and transportation and country’s outbound travel and transportation; and the balance on income is the difference between income (compensation of employees and investment income) earned from overseas and income paid overseas. For many years, ... [Read more]

Corona Crisis and Fiscal Expansion: Continued Debt Refinancing Entails High Risk

Ueda Kazuo, Professor, Kyoritsu Women’s University   Key points A shift to a total rejection of fiscal deficit and government debt Large government debts negatively impact potential growth rate Continuing to refinance entails the risk of heavy losses   Every country’s finances have deteriorated significantly, mainly due to expansionary fiscal policies in response to COVID-19. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the ratio of outstanding debt to GDP in developed countries in 2020 will exceed that immediately following World War II, making it the highest since the late nineteenth century. Currently, governments have no choice but to continue to support their economies through fiscal policy. However, a major challenge is the medium- to long-term reduction of fiscal deficit and government debts, which have ballooned to an unprecedented scale. Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) has become a hot topic in relation to how to address ... [Read more]