By Kazuki Murakami
A Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) survey found that Tokyo and Osaka, two areas with an increasing number of infections, do not use the Japanese government’s new information sharing system on individuals infected with the coronavirus. Known as the HER-SYS, the system was launched two months ago. The survey also found that only 70% of hospitals have used G-MIS, a system to collect and share information on the status of hospitals’ beds, staffing, and medical supplies. There is concern that the government will not have an accurate understanding of the COVID-19 situation or the state of the medical system, and therefore not be able to promptly implement coronavirus countermeasures.
HER-SYS is a system to centrally manage infected individuals’ names, addresses, symptoms, and the names of people they have close contact with. The information is entered into the system by medical institutions and health centers and then made available to local and national governments. Previously, physicians faxed handwritten notices to health centers, where the information was manually entered. It is hoped that the new system will lead to a considerable reduction in labor.
HER-SYS was launched on May 29. IDs were issued to 155 local governments, such as prefectures with health centers and ordinance-designated cities. As of July 22, the following local governments are not using the system: Tokyo Metropolitan Government, 23 cities and wards in Tokyo, Osaka Prefecture, and eight cities in Osaka Prefecture, including Osaka City. As of July 21, over 11,000 infected individuals nationwide are recorded in the system. This is well below Japan’s cumulative total number of cases, which is over 30,000.
One reason why Tokyo and Osaka are not using the new system is that they already have their own system for tallying cases. There have been delays in transferring the data to the new system because these Tokyo and Osaka have needed to respond to their rapidly increasing number of cases. Procedures for handling personal data have also taken time. (Abridged)