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Editorial: Record of nation’s handling of the pandemic must be preserved

  • June 8, 2020
  • , The Japan News , 1:49 p.m.
  • English Press

The entire nation has been grappling with efforts to prevent the spread of a new type of infectious disease amid what is said to be a once-a-century pandemic.


A wide range of records should be preserved that can used by future generations to understand the facts and learn from them.


The National Diet Library has been collecting and publishing online material related to the novel coronavirus. Among them is a press release by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry dated Jan. 16 that reported the first case in Japan.


The document states that “there is no clear evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission.” This suggests a lack of awareness of the danger of the epidemic during a period in which there was not yet much information about the virus.


The impact of the coronavirus has varied from region to region. Libraries and museums across the country should consider working together to develop a framework for consolidating and preserving materials.


The National Diet Library and the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry created a website to collect and preserve records on a nationwide basis in the wake of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, an initiative that could serve as an example.


The coronavirus epidemic has brought about major changes in people’s lives. There has been an increase in the number of people opting to stay at home, telecommute and participate in online classes. In addition to the emergence of vigilantes dubbed the “self-restraint police,” who have been criticizing people for going out and stores for remaining open, discrimination against coronavirus patients, and medical workers and their families has also become an issue.


It is important to keep a record of such events so that future generations have an understanding of the state of society amid the coronavirus crisis.


Kansai University has invited contributions from students and faculty members, and has published photos of the university campus during a period in which access was restricted, as well as photos of a scaled-down graduation ceremony.


The Historical Museum of Urahoro in Hokkaido is collecting materials on discrimination and harassment in an effort to keep a record of the “negative responses.” It would be desirable for these ambitious attempts to spread more widely.


How did the government reach decisions on its measures against the virus? The importance of documenting the process in a verifiable manner goes without saying.


After facing criticism over a failure to produce minutes of meetings of an advisory expert panel on antivirus measures, the government has changed its policy and will produce them going forward.


Under guidelines for managing administrative documents, minutes are not required to be taken at expert meetings as policies are not decided or approved at such meetings.


However, it is clear that discussions at the meetings had a major impact on such government policies as its “guidelines for consultation and examination” and examples of “new lifestyles.”


Shigeru Omi, vice chair of the panel, emphasized the significance of information disclosure, saying, “It is our responsibility to explain to people what ideas were in our minds when we made the proposals.”


Public trust is essential for the government to smoothly implement measures against infectious diseases. A prerequisite for this is to increase the transparency of the policy-making process.


— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on June 8, 2020

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