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NHK Special: The fight against the new coronavirus

  • March 22, 2020
  • , NHK
  • JMH Summary

The 60-minute documentary program reported on Sunday on the coronavirus pandemic. The program showed for the first time the inside of the office of the MHLW’s task force dealing with “cluster” infections, where experts expressed caution about the “optimism” seen in Japan regarding the outlook for the coronavirus outbreak in Japan. Tohoku University of Medicine Professor Oshitani, who leads the task force, explained that Japan has so far been able to prevent an “overshoot,” or explosion of coronavirus cases, as opposed to other nations, such as the U.S. and Europe. He said one reason is that those nations have many immigrants with poor access to medical services, and also pointed out that there are virtually no national borders between EU nations. Oshitani said that in Japan, many people have access to medical services and the diagnostic capability of medical practitioners is high, explaining that this has enabled the early detection and elimination of cluster infections. He also dismissed criticism that Japan is actually overlooking the actual number of patients because the number of PCR tests administered is small by saying that if that were the case, Japan would already be seeing an “overshoot.” He added that the number of PCR tests being administered in Japan is sufficient to detect “clusters.” Noting that 80% of the people who have tested positive did not transmit the virus to anyone else, he said everyone does not have to be tested in order to detect “clusters.” He added that if everyone were allowed to undergo PCR testing, people would flock to medical institutions and non-infected people could become infected there. He emphasized that the policy of restricting the number of PCR tests conducted is one of the major reasons why Japan has been able to prevent an “overshoot.” He also warned that in the event of an “overshoot” in Japan, the current medical system would be unable to cope.

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