When the eighth victim of COVID-19 was confirmed in Japan, Abe's government was under increasing pressure from national and international critics to contain the coronavirus that causes the disease. The growing momentum of the outbreak in Japan and in the world has left the Japanese Government with few effective tools against COVID-19 and has raised the specter of the cancellation of the Tokyo Olympics, which are scheduled to begin on July 24.
After ordering citizens to avoid crowded sites and postpone massive activities such as concerts and even extend the deadline for filing taxes until AprilJapan recently took its boldest step, so far, against COVID-19 by “requesting” all public elementary schools to close until April 8, 2020.
If the directive is met, 13 million students from all over Japan will stay at home in what has been described as a unprecedented measure of the Japanese Government since World War II. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, Tokyo Disneyland He also made the drastic decision to close, a situation that had not happened since the devastating earthquakes and tsunamis of March 11, 2011.
The decision to close the Abe government schools was immediately criticized. Taking the concerns of other public health experts, Yoshida Masaki, president of the Japanese Society for Environmental Infection (JSEI) by name in English) and a member of the government's COVID-19 expert panel, said:
た だ, 感染 が 起 き て い る 地域 で の 休 校 は 感染 を 広 め な い た め に は よ い と 思 う が, 感染 が 起 き て い な い 地域 で 同 じ 対 応 を と る こ と に ど れ ほ ど の 効果 が あ る か は わ か ら な い. 子 ど も た ち が 外に 出 歩 き 、 友 ん ち て は 効果 は 下 が る は 、 点 す る と と は 難 し い は
To prevent transmission from person to person in areas already infected by COVID-19, closing schools could help reduce transmission. However, closing schools where there is no virus presence will not make any difference. Also (even with the schools closed) the children will go out to play, so it will be difficult to determine if the closure of schools will be effective.
Ogi Naoki, a media character and prominent education commentator, also noted that the closure of the elementary school may be a difficulty for families where both parents work, who will probably have difficulty organizing childcare. Meanwhile, bureaucrats and legislators, who have not been consulted by the board, continue to express “confusion and anger.”
The potential chaos due to the closure of the schools was demonstrated by the decision of numerous nurses from a Hokkaido hospital to stay at home to take care of their children:
Good job everybody. We created a nursing shortage during a medical emergency. pic.twitter.com/aDBQyNRPJA
– Chris Pearce (@clpearce) February 27, 2020
Chyron translation: Obihiro Hospital: Approximately 170 nurses (20 percent of nursing staff) unable to appear for shifts because of childcare responsibilities.
Obihiro Hospital: about 170 nurses (20% of the team) do not go to the workplace due to family responsibilities.
Good job everyone! We have created a shortage of nurses during a medical emergency.
The rush of the Abe government to take action against COVID-19 may be due, in part, to growing national and international criticisms of its initial effort to contain the disease during the quarantine of the Diamond Princess cruise ship in the port of Yokohama, which began February 4
The quarantine of the cruise resulted in many infected by COVID-10 on the ship and rage at the apparent lack of proper medical procedures by the Japanese medical team to examine and control passengers and crew.
It also came to light that the same team returned to work in hospitals and government offices without having been tested for infection by COVID-19.
TBS reports that most of the Japanese health ministry employees who had been on board the Diamond Princess ship – not clear how many – have skipped the coronavirus screening tests due to the fear of positive results. # COVID19 https://t.co/QuHWEIDdoX
– Thoton Akimoto (@Thoton) February 22, 2020
TBS reports that the majority of employees of the Japanese Ministry of Health who have been aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship – it is not known how many – have avoided the coronavirus test for fear of being positive.
The tests with the medical staff were put aside after it became clear that, with a potentially high number of medical and government workers incapacitated, the positive results of COVID-19 would mean that there would be no way of doing any work.
After visiting the quarantine cruise, Iwata Kentaro, an infectious disease expert, made a video of what he saw, and claimed that the medical team was “violating all infection control principles.” After going viral and causing a storm of criticism in Japan and around the world, he deleted it.
“My intention (…) was to change what was happening inside the cruise, it was not my intention to criticize anyone,” Iwata later explained at a press conference when asked why he had deleted the video.
However, the political damage to the Japanese Government was already done. Masuzoe Yoichi, former Health Minister, dismissed as Governor of Tokyo for a 2016 expense scandal, launched his former friends in the Government:
As former Health Minister who coped with H1NI flu successfully in 2009, I am much concerned about poor performance of the Japanese Gov't facing coronavirus. No commander capable of crisis management and no mobilization of human resources. Look at the cruise ship (Petri dishes).
– 舛 添 要 一 (@MasuzoeYoichi) February 22, 2020
As a former Health Minister who successfully faced H1N1 flu in 2009, I am very concerned about the poor performance of the Japanese Government against the coronavirus. No (there is) commander who can manage the crisis or mobilize human resources. Look at the cruise (Petri dish).
A few days later, The New York Times opined about Japan's response to COVID-19. In an English editorial published on February 26, Koichi Takano, a political scientist and dean of the Faculty of Liberal Arts at the University of Sofia in Tokyo, stated that the “sense of possession of the leaders engenders indifference and incompetence” to deal with with COVID-19. This incompetence, says Takano, combined with the “institutional inertia” of the bureaucracy (“raise the alarm about an impending crisis and could blame you for causing it,” Takano writes) has caused a crisis in Japan.
Adding more pressure to the Abe government to successfully deal with the COVID-19 issue were the observations widely disseminated throughout the world by Dick Pound, senior official of the International Olympic Committee, that Japan has “three months to decide the fate of the Olympics, ”which will be held in Tokyo from July 24.
A Japanese Twitter user noted the similarities between the Tokyo 2020 Olympics tormented by the growing threat of an epidemic and the movie Akira. In the 1988 film, a new post-apocalyptic and chaotic Tokyo is preparing to celebrate the 2019 Olympics.
On February 28, “Just cancel them!” (# 中止 だ 中止), a phrase from the animated film Akira about the cancellation of fictitious Olympics, followed by a screenshot of a movie poster became a trend on Twitter in Japan.
In Akira, 147 days after the start of the Olympics, a total annihilation is about to arrive in Tokyo. In real life, as of February 28, 2020, there were also 147 days left before the start of the summer Olympic games in Tokyo.
– こ せ き @ 黄 身 だ け を 愛 し て る (@ egg68389419) February 28, 2020
Just cancel them!
This Akira scene also takes place on this date (February 28). I wonder if the new Tokyo stadium will also be vaporized.
Review the special coverage of Global Voices on the global impact of COVID-19.