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Editorial: Nations must work together to halt new coronavirus pandemic

  • March 13, 2020
  • , The Japan News , 12:35 p.m.
  • English Press

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recognized the spread of the new coronavirus as a pandemic — a worldwide outbreak of an infectious disease. Countries around the world should cooperate to prevent the spread of infection.


The infection of the new coronavirus emerged in China and spread to South Korea and Japan. Since then, the disease has moved to Italy and other parts of Europe, Iran and the United States, with over 120,000 people infected in more than 100 countries and regions.


When a new strain of influenza spread in 2009, the WHO declared a pandemic at an early stage, but was criticized for fueling panic as a result. This may be the reason why it was cautious about declaring a pandemic this time.


Certifying a pandemic does not impose any obligation on countries. However, those that have infected patients need to take it as message urging them to reinforce measures.


The WHO also pointed out that they should continue their efforts to contain the virus rather than giving up. It is important for each country to minimize the number of victims as much as possible by curbing the speed of infection and maintaining medical systems.


Following the WHO’s pronouncement, U.S. President Donald Trump announced a rare measure to ban travel from Europe, excluding Britain, for 30 days. From the viewpoint of strengthening the epidemic prevention system, it is unavoidable that more and more countries are taking similar measures as infection spreads.


In case of introducing entry restrictions, the important thing is to communicate with each other sufficiently and make efforts to gain understanding. Rational actions can prevent unnecessary confusion and friction.


As the number of infected people increases, large numbers of cases have been accumulated in various countries. It is hoped that doctors and researchers from around the world, led by the WHO, will work together to analyze cases and establish effective treatment strategies. International cooperation is also essential for the development of vaccines and therapeutic drugs.


The spread of infection is also feared in developing countries, where medical systems are weak. The damage could become worse particularly in Africa due to a shortage of hospitals. It is hoped that developed nations and other countries that can afford to do so will support developing countries by sending testing equipment and providing financial assistance.


In Europe, discriminatory language against Asians is conspicuous. For instance, Chinese people have been abused with calls of “corona” on the street. It is necessary to calmly deal with these cases so that the fear of infection does not invite prejudice.


In Japan, temporary closures of schools and voluntary restraint in holding large-scale events have been put in place. A government panel of experts evaluated the situation, saying: “No explosive infection has taken place. [We are] withstanding it to a certain extent.” It is hoped Japan continuously makes an effort to improve its screening capabilities, leading to ensuring that patients are treated properly.


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