Japan recommends telecommuting and not leaving home in 17 of the 43 prefectures | Society

The Japanese government presented its measures to limit the epidemic on Tuesday. The announcement comes a day after a panel of experts alerted that Japan It is on the verge of an escalation in its infected data. The country, with 126 million inhabitants, has detected 161 indigenous infections - of which one has died - which makes it the fourth with the highest number of infections, behind China, South Korea and Italy. In many cases the origin is not clear, which makes it difficult to control its expansion. In addition, to the patients registered in the country, we must add more than 700 in the Diamond Princess This Tuesday confirmed the fourth death on the cruise. "We are at an extremely critical time to stop the spread of the virus," acknowledged Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Among the measures announced, the Government recommended that companies promote teleworking and advised those who live in areas where contagion has been detected - 17 of 43 prefectures - to stay at home. He also communicated that priority will be given to the treatment of the most vulnerable so as not to saturate hospitals and avoid spreading the infection among the risk groups (elderly and sick of other ailments); and that those with mild symptoms, similar to a cold, should remain in their homes and not go to medical centers. He did not ban mass events, but he did ask organizers to consider reducing their size or suspending them.

Until now, Japan had put the priority in preventing the arrival of the virus into its territory, a strategy that has not worked. “The local transmission has already begun,” admitted the former regional director for the World Health Organization and head of the Community Health Organization of Japan, Shigeru Omi, of the expert panel that advises the Government. "The main objective from now on should be to control the speed of the spread and minimize deaths and people with severe symptoms," he explained.

In sport the drastic measures had already begun. The Tokyo marathon will be held on Sunday but only with elite athletes. In addition, the football league, the J-League, has suspended its matches until March 15. In an interview with the Associated Press agency, Dick Pound, of the International Olympic Committee, said that in three months they will decide what will happen with the Tokyo 2020 Games (scheduled between July 24 and August 9). So far, training for event volunteers has been postponed.

The crisis comes when the academic year is about to end and numerous institutes and universities are planning their graduation ceremonies in March. Some, like the International University of Akita, will suspend yours. In others, the educational authorities have proposed that they be shorter and in petit committee.


Schools with infected students or workers have suspended classes. This is the case of an institute in Ebetsu, which has an infected teacher and will close until day 6. The Ministry of Education plans to ask the centers of affected areas to cancel classes. Yes, the Selectivity test for entry into 168 Japanese universities has passed normally.

The feeling of urgency of the Japanese Government contrasts with the slow reaction of the first days of the crisis. When the first returnee plane arrived from Wuhan, at the end of January, passengers voluntarily decided if they were tested for the virus. Two refused. Nor was a mandatory quarantine provided in a designated place, but in private homes.

The quarantine of Diamond princess It was very criticized. For days the ship became the biggest focus of infection outside of China. Tokyo, however, did not isolate passengers and on February 3 allowed them to leave the ship. In the quarantine, 23 passengers were not examined. The Minister of Health, Katsunabu Kato, even had to apologize.

Untrained bureaucrats

Part of the mistakes of Japanese management are attributed to the rigidity of its bureaucracy. Japan lacks an independent body in charge of disease prevention and control, and there are no officials with the training to respond to this crisis. The head organ is the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, of the Ministry of Health. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose popularity has suffered a setback, announced that he "will consider" creating an independent entity.

Last week, Professor Kentaro Iwata, an expert in infectious disease control, climbed aboard the Diamond princess and denounced the situation on the ship. The lack of a group of specialists led to “inappropriate” preventive measures such as not delimiting virus-free and possibly contaminated areas.


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