Society | Discuss Japan - COVID-19

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Society  Dec. 15, 2020

Tokyo Metropolitan Government: Measures to combat COVID-19―The challenge of containing mass infection in a megacity with an aging population

Koike Yuriko, Governor of Tokyo Public hygiene supports the Tokyo Megacity’s measures to combat COVID-19 2020 was originally supposed to be the year of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. However, the COVID-19 pandemic compelled us to postpone the games. Currently, I am fighting this invisible enemy, as are the heads of local governments around the world. Tokyo, the capital of Japan, is a megacity with a population of approximately 14 million. The percentage of elderly people 65 or older in Tokyo is extremely high: 23.3%. Looking at Tokyo’s COVID-19 situation, there have been roughly 45,500 total infections and 530 deaths. As of December 10, 2020, there are approximately 60 people with severe infections in hospitals. As the number of infected people is increasing now, on November 19 the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) raised its coronavirus alert level of the infection situation to the ... ... [Read more]

Society  Nov. 24, 2020

How Should We Confront COVID-19?

Oshitani Hitoshi, Professor, Department of Virology, Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine   This is a republication of Prof. Oshitani’s message as published on the website of the Department of Virology, Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine during the period February 4–22.   There is no end in sight to the infectious spread of 2019-nCoV (COVID19) that started in China. The true nature of this virus is gradually coming to light. There still remains much that we do not know, but I would like to consider how Japan and the international society should respond to this virus in light of what we do know. Firstly, the virus that is causing this was quickly identified by Chinese scientists and its gene sequence has been publicized. As a result, we know that the virus is closely related to SARS-CoV, which caused a global outbreak in 2003. ... ... [Read more]

Society  Nov. 16, 2020

We Are Approaching the Limits of Having Only Policies that Preserve Employment!: The Largest Number of People Taking a Leave of Absence Since World War II—What Has Happened in the Labor Market?

Genda Yuji, Professor, University of Tokyo Only a Slight Increase in Unemployment in April When the declaration of a state of emergency was issued for all of Japan due to the spread of COVID-19 in April 2020, the survival of many companies was in jeopardy and the Japanese workplace faced unprecedented difficulties. Job opportunities collapsed and there was concern that we might see workers lose their jobs and struggle to survive. According to the Labor Force Survey by the Statistics Bureau, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, released at the end of May, the number of workers across Japan was reduced by 1.07 million (seasonally adjusted) in just one month from March to April when infections rapidly spread. As a great reduction from the previous month since May 1953 when comparisons can be made, it was second to the 1.13 million workers from January ... ... [Read more]

Society  Nov. 11, 2020

Chasing the X-factor! Why is the Japanese COVID-19 death rate low?

Osumi Noriko, Professor, Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine   What conclusion was drawn from searching, based on the belief that there must be a reason unique to Japanese people?   In Bungeishunju, June 2020, Dr. Yamanaka Shinya, Director of the Center for iPS Cell Research and Application (CiRA), Kyoto University, pointed out that there must be some sort of a hidden “X-factor” behind the fact that there are few deaths from COVID-19 among Japanese people, and this was talked about in the news. I have actually always had the same doubts and searched for possible candidates for an X-factor from public data and the latest papers which are updated daily around the world, and I presented these candidates on the “sendaitribune” blog. My field is developmental neuroscience, which is different from infectious disease medicine and epidemiology. However, with this COVID-19 outbreak, I now ... ... [Read more]

Society  Nov. 11, 2020

Another State of Emergency is Possible: What the Coronavirus Subcommittee Hesitated with and How they Made Their Decision

Omi Shigeru, Chairman of the New Coronavirus Infectious Diseases Control Subcommittee   Dr. Omi Shigeru (71), Chairman of the New Coronavirus Infectious Diseases Control Subcommittee, revealed in Bungeishunju (July 2020) that he was influenced by author Kobayashi Hideo’s Mushi no Seishin (The Spirit of Unselfishness) when he was younger. The following opinion is found in an essay by Kobayashi that was presented in the 1960s. “People who succeed as doers are seen as people who push through themselves and strongly assert themselves, but on the contrary, there is actually a kind of unselfishness among them.” (Hideo Kobayashi Complete Works, Volume 12, Shinchosha) Dr. Omi, who served as the vice chair of the Expert Meeting until June, took responsibility for controlling infections while also making the economy work as the Chairman of the Subcommittee from July, as the spread of infections approached a new phase. ... ... [Read more]

Society  Oct. 27, 2020

Infectious Disease and Civilization in the Twenty-first Century: Invisible Calamities Attack Modernity and the Spirit of Civil Virtue Developed by the Japanese People

Yamazaki Masakazu, Playwright and Critic   Editor’s note: Professor Yamazaki Masakazu passed away on August 19, 2020. This article, written in early May 2020, is published in translation here with the permission of the bereaved family and the original publisher. Going back to a previous time in world history The current spread of COVID-19 can be considered a “historic” event in two senses. Firstly, of course, it is an epoch-making tragedy and turning point in contemporary history, because the epidemic is likely to have a lasting influence on future civilization. Secondly, and of greater significance, the tragedy pours cold water on the hidden arrogance of modern people, and we can imagine it encouraging a return to the human civilization of the past: a time when urban civilization arose. The epoch that we call the “modern age” has had a number of stages—and as humanity ... ... [Read more]

Society  Oct. 15, 2020

The Way Forward Is “Shorter, Cheaper, and Closer to Home”: The Tourism Industry Will Recover Even Without Inbound Tourism!

Hoshino Yoshiharu, CEO, Hoshino Resorts   One of the industries most severely hit by the COVID-19 pandemic has been the tourism industry. Some small and medium-sized traditional inns have even gone bankrupt, so what can be done to revive the tourism industry? Bungeishunju asked HoshinoYoshiharu, CEO of Hoshino Resorts, who is the manager of luxury traditional inns and hotels.   The declaration of a state of emergency was lifted and travel across prefectural borders was once again permitted starting on June 19, so people are gradually returning to the tourist attractions. The tourism industry lost a major market in the so-called Golden Week due to the COVID-19 outbreak, so it’s positive that this development started speeding up ahead of the important summer season. It felt like there was a glimmer of hope. The number of reservations for the facilities we run in Japan are ... ... [Read more]

Society  Oct. 5, 2020

Three Researchers Entrusted with the Nation’s Fate: Document Novel Coronavirus “Expert Meeting”― Four Months of Struggling Against the People and the Government

Hirono Shinji, nonfiction writer   He has a quick pace. Oshitani Hitoshi (61), Professor at the Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine and the man who has contin ued to work these four months focused on Japan’s COVID-19 measures, is said to have gone mountain climbing 100 days a year while as a student and member of the alpine club, and even today is said to do so 50 days a year. He is a good walker. I finally caught him on May 21 at the Central Government Building No. 8, located diagonally across from the Prime Minister’s Official Residence. Oshitani, who had just come out of the meeting room right after a meeting of the Advisory Committee on the Basic Action Policy that had finished the government’s policy on the lifting of the state of emergency for 42 prefectures, stuck to his position ... ... [Read more]

Society  Sept. 25, 2020

The History of Infectious Disease in Japan: Origins of the World’s Best Hygiene Awareness — The Mysterious Relationship between the Japanese and the God of Pestilence

Isoda Michifumi, Associate Professor, International Research Center for Japanese Studies   The authority of the Emperor of Japan as well as the rituals at Ise Jingu shrine have their beginnings in infectious disease. Today, people in Japan have a high awareness of hygiene. This advantage has contributed much to overcoming the current wave of COVID-19. How did this amazing public health competency develop among the people of Japan? To consider this question, we need to look back at history. The story starts 1,700 years ago. Emperor Sujin (97–30 BCE) is thought to be the tenth in the imperial line after Emperor Jimmu (660–585 BCE), the first emperor who may actually have existed. This is what Inoue Mitsusada (1917–83), an authority on the ancient history of Japan at the University of Tokyo who compiled the postwar history textbooks, says in Nihon no rekishi 1: Shinwa ... ... [Read more]

Archives, Discussions, Society  Sept. 18, 2020

Udo Yumiko’s My Fair Person: What Can Be Seen from the COVID-19 LINE Survey―Miyata Hiroaki, Professor, School of Medicine, Department of Health Policy and Management of Keio University

UDO Yumiko vs Prof. MIYATA Hiroaki   Udo Yumiko: Nice to meet you, Professor Miyata. This is my first time talking online with someone that I’ve never met in person before. Professor Miyata Hiroaki: I’m honored!   Udo: Professor Miyata, you proposed the “Early SNS-Based Monitoring System for the COVID-19 Outbreak in Japan: A Population-Level Observational Study,” gathered massive amounts of health data from many people, and continue with efforts that utilize the next move in COVID-19 measures in cooperation with local governments and the Cluster Response Team of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW). Miyata: Of the approximately 83 million LINE users in Japan, we received responses from about 25 million during the first survey, held from March 31 to April 1. With a response rate of about one-third, it was the second largest survey in Japanese history, excluding the national ... ... [Read more]