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Editorial: Improve medical arrangements to deal with extended state of emergency

  • May 5, 2020
  • , The Japan News , 12:20 p.m.
  • English Press

Dealing with the infectious disease will take a long time. The government must not only broaden the understanding of measures to prevent infection but also find a way to resume social and economic activities.


In light of the spread of the new coronavirus, the government has extended the nationwide declaration of a state of emergency to the end of this month. Given the tight situation at medical institutions on the front lines, the extension of the period to a certain extent can be called reasonable.


The government has revised its basic policy for dealing with the virus, which stipulates concrete measures to prevent the spread of the infection, and has called on the 13 “special alert” prefectures, designated as such due to a high accumulated number of infections, to continue to maintain restrictions on movement.


On the other hand, in areas where there are few infected people, restrictions on going outside will be eased and the holding of events for a small number of people will effectively be allowed. It seems that the government has been concerned about the prolonged cooling down of the economy.


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his view that by mid-May the government will study whether the declaration can be lifted by analyzing the infection situation, the number of beds at medical institutions and other elements. The government is believed to have in mind areas where the virus has not spread.


Abe also said that the government plans to draw up guidelines for resuming business activities in each industry.


Even as the guard against the virus is relaxed, will the infection not spread again? The government is requested to carefully listen to experts’ opinions and cautiously make decisions.


To prevent infection, each individual’s behavior is important.


It is essential to thoroughly prevent the situations of closed spaces, crowded places and close-contact settings. It is necessary to establish a “new way of life” in our daily lives, such as making efforts to regularly wear masks and wash hands, and avoiding eating while sitting across from another person.


What is important is to steadily strengthen medical preparedness for infections.


Some areas are running short of hospital beds for patients. The central government should cooperate with local governments to make efforts to divide the roles of medical institutions and secure facilities for people with mild symptoms.


It is also hoped that the expansion of PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests will be expedited. In reality, the number of tests has not sufficiently increased, as public health centers, which serve as the window for the tests, have not been able to fully handle the issue. The government should take countermeasures, such as increasing the number of public health center staff members and setting up inspection centers dedicated to collecting samples.


If the request for suspension of business operations is prolonged, there is a possibility that many businesses could fall into economic hardship and employment could not be maintained.


The government is considering raising the ceiling on the amount of employment adjustment subsidies to companies that put their employees on leave. Financial support for small and midsize companies with cash flow problems should also be improved.


Many university students have lost income due to the suspension of business at places where they worked part-time. Support for their tuition and living expenses is urgently needed.


The government should consider additional fiscal spending, if necessary.


— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on May 5, 2020.

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