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Editorial: Prepare for prolonged battle to combat spread of new coronavirus

  • March 21, 2020
  • , The Japan News , 12:53 p.m.
  • English Press

It can now be seen that countermeasures against infections with the new coronavirus will need to be tackled over a long period. Measures to curb the spread of the disease must be continued.


At a recent meeting of the government’s headquarters for combating the COVID-19 outbreak, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his intention to thoroughly implement measures against the infectious disease and called on organizers to remain cautious about holding large-scale events, from the viewpoint of preventing infection.


The virus has spread around the world, and there have been cases in which people returning from Europe and other parts of the world tested positive. The risk of the virus entering Japan from abroad is increasing.


A government panel of experts has analyzed the current situation in Japan and said the number of infected people is increasing in some areas and thus there is a possibility of so-called overshooting, or an explosive increase in the number of infections.


The prime minister’s judgment is believed to have been based on this severe situation.


Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Koichi Hagiuda said the government plans not to extend its initial request for simultaneous school closures until the regular spring break. The minister will soon release guidelines that include the government’s basic ideas on reopening schools in the new semester, among other measures. 


While taking measures to prevent further infection, it is also essential to carefully look for ways to get back to normal.


Vital to improve hospitals


The expert panel’s report expresses concern that the measures taken so far have had some effect in Hokkaido, where a state of emergency had been declared, but not enough in urban areas.


This is because although the speed of the spread of infections has slowed due to many organizers refraining from holding events and staggered working hours, among other efforts, the current situation in Japan has yet to break the chain of infection.


It is understandable that the panel once again called for people to avoid rooms with poor ventilation and places where many people would have conversation in close contact. Each individual should take thorough steps to prevent infection.


The panel has urged countermeasures that take into consideration the circumstances of each region.


It has called on people to uniformly refrain from taking part in social activities in areas where infections with the virus are on a rising trend. As to areas with a low number of infected people, the panel has allowed the lifting of restraints on low-risk activities, such as playing outdoor sports, and using and attending cultural facilities.


Each local government must make decisions based on its infection situation.


It is also important to improve the medical system for a sudden increase in patients.


The panel has pointed out the need to prioritize the treatment of seriously ill patients. Patients with mild symptoms should be treated at home, while hospitalization should be limited to people who are seriously ill or have complications.


It is important to secure enough beds to treat the seriously ill, so that medical care does not collapse.


In public health centers and other facilities across the country, there are shortages of personnel capable of carrying out research to trace infection routes. To prevent the spread of viruses, the government should improve and expand systems to identify clusters of infected people as soon as possible.

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