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Editorial: Calm response, accurate info urged to counter new coronavirus outbreak

  • February 8, 2020
  • , The Japan News , 7:34 p.m.
  • English Press

With no sign of an end to the outbreak of a new type of pneumonia-causing virus in sight, unconfirmed information has been rife online. People are urged to act calmly based on accurate information.


The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched a website offering information on the new coronavirus in question and answer format. For example, regarding the question “Can eating garlic help prevent infection?” the answer states “there is no evidence … that eating garlic has protected people from the new coronavirus.”


The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has set up a similar website. Basic information can be obtained, such as “the incubation period is believed to be 1 to 12.5 days” and “contact a consultation service section of a public health center if infection is suspected.”


Aggravated false claims that fuel anxiety have also been conspicuous. On Twitter, a post saying that a Chinese visitor pushed through and escaped the quarantine inspection at Kansai Airport spread. When encountering ambiguous information, it is important to first confirm it with reliable sources, such as the central and local governments.


Facebook has begun verifying the content of posts on its platforms. Google also has made official information such as from the WHO appear at the top of search results. Such measures will perhaps effectively prevent the spread of false information.


What is concerning is the spread of discrimination based on groundless information related to this new type of virus.


The health ministry has received consultations that include a report that a child of a medical worker who is in charge of treating patients infected with the virus was bullied. Some people are concerned over harmful rumors about accommodation facilities that have accepted infected people.


Although the infectivity of the new coronavirus remains unclear, some research reports have shown that it is similar to that of ordinary influenza. It is hoped that people will be reaffirmed that health management and washing hands could raise the potential of preventing infections or aggravation of the disease.


Another problem is that masks have been in short supply, raising their prices. As masks have been sold at prices several times higher than their retail prices on websites that allow selling by individuals, the Consumer Affairs Agency has asked the sites’ operators and other relevant parties to take appropriate action.


Strictly abstain from excessive buying and reselling capitalizing on social anxiety. At the same time, it is hoped that mask manufacturers will make efforts to secure a stable supply by increasing production.


Japan is currently at the stage of working as much as possible to prevent people infected with the virus — which has spread globally from Wuhan, China — from entering Japan. The nation is trying to stave off the spread of infections by having infected patients hospitalized in designated hospitals.


A cruise ship that entered the Port of Yokohama has been told to remain anchored offshore for an extended time for quarantine inspections to continue. This is also part of measures to contain the new coronavirus.


Especially because there are many uncertain factors and concerns are growing, the government needs to provide accurate and thorough information.

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