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Editorial: Thoughtless behavior could cause more harm than the coronavirus

  • May 10, 2020
  • , The Japan News , 5:50 p.m.
  • English Press

Harsh statements have been flying around, mainly on the internet, amid a state of emergency that continues to inconvenience our daily lives. Such conduct will inflict nothing but harm on our fight against this infectious disease.


A female company employee who tested positive for the new coronavirus this month while she was visiting her family’s home in Yamanashi Prefecture has faced severe criticism online.


The woman must regret her conduct, such as returning to Tokyo by an expressway bus knowing she was infected with the virus, and lying to staff of a public health center. But trying to identify the woman online or spreading misinformation is unacceptable.


Emotion-driven language has always been prominent online. The corona crisis has fanned the flames.


“People infected with the virus are killers of the elderly,” read a comment posted on social media by an assembly member of Sennan city, Osaka Prefecture. An entertainer posted a comment online criticizing joggers who don’t wear masks: “Cut it out, stupid runners!”


While people have the freedom to express their opinions, it has to be said that posting comments online that one wouldn’t say face to face shows a lack of morals with respect to internet usage.


Criticisms have also been expressed in the real world. Amid calls to refrain from such actions that might worsen the spread of the virus, the so-called “self-restraint police” have taken it upon themselves to personally condemn people who aren’t staying at home and businesses that remain open, among others.


A Tokyo cafe and live music venue that had announced it would stream online a live concert without an audience received a notice on its storefront warning that the police would be called if they made such announcements again. In Tokushima Prefecture, residents and others driving cars with license plates issued outside of the prefecture have been tailgated and experienced verbal abuse.


Some actions may have been fueled by concerns over the spread of infections, but imposing sanctions at one’s own discretion isn’t wise. If the situation escalates, a society could emerge in which people are afraid to walk anywhere from fear of being attacked by anyone and at any time.


In April, the Japanese Red Cross Society released an animated video in which it claims that an excessive defense instinct born out of a sense of fear is scarier than the virus and could trigger attacks on people based on assumptions that others are to blame for the infections. The video warns against the divisions that emerge in society when people hurt each other.


As long as there is no established medical treatment for the infectious disease, both the administration and experts have no choice but to respond as the situation demands. What is needed is for people to be mindful of their own actions to avoid infection, not emotionally driven criticisms of others.


Show consideration if you see a parent with a child at a supermarket, as there may be circumstances when a child isn’t able to be left at home. If such a sense of understanding prevails, it will help us pave the way to overcome the virus.


— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on May 10, 2020.

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