Japan was one of the first countries outside of China to be touched by the novel coronavirus. The world turned toward Japan and many complaints were done about the handling of the Diamond Cruise ship in Yokohama. However, everybody stopped looking at Japan after this episode. The virus appeared controlled.
I wasn’t so sure about this and considered going back to France in order to avoid the spread here. In the end, I couldn’t. Looking at the sudden quick spread and lockdown in France, I ended up considering I had been lucky to have gotten stuck here.
Like many, I underestimated the virus. After a while, I started believing everybody saying “Japan is safe”. The lack of human contact, the common use of masks, or the cleanliness of common areas seemed like good reasons to explain the low number.
But that wasn’t it.
Japan has not been testing much and the morning trains were as packed as ever. In Tokyo, a city of more than 30 million inhabitants, people were living their lives as if nothing was happening. I was too. Yet, how could you expect a virus not to spread in a city where there are areas with more than 22,500 people per square kilometer and an average of 6,500?
The number of contaminated people was bound to rise.
Sure, the government acted “quickly” by closing down schools throughout the country at the end of February and advising to work from home. But the vast majority of Japanese companies refuse this right to their employees. The result? Trains still packed in the morning, spreading the disease day after day.
Sure, the masks and cleanliness helped reduce the speed of the spread, but the virus isn’t in a hurry. It’s slowly taking over Japan.
As I write these words on April 5th, we saw 118 new cases in Tokyo the past day. It might seem low compared to many other countries, but that’s remembering the absence of wide-spread testing.
The Japanese population is at risk
In 2018, senior citizens accounted for 28.4% of the Japanese population. It’s growing every year so we might even be at 30% now. Either way, that represents more than 35 million people with a high probability of not surviving the virus.
With the lack of strict control set by the government, it’s only a matter of time before the older generations get reached. By then, it’ll be too late. Japan will have condemned its citizens without any hope for salvation.
There is still some hope
On March 27th, the Governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike, asked Tokyoites to stay inside for the weekend and avoid going out. I happened to go walk around my flat with a friend staying over and saw some restaurants closed for the weekend. It was the first real impact (apart from schools) I noticed in daily life.
It’s only a start and actions should be taken faster. The Japanese culture of being patient and weighing every tiny potential solution works sometimes. Now is not one of those times. Every minute counts and the country should be closed down like the rest of the world is doing.
If the government acts now, they can hope to reduce the incoming slaughter. There’ll be a high percentage of deaths in Japan either way. But it’s now time to act and try to reduce it as much as possible.