How Japan Is Still A COVID-19 Outlier?


Abinash Pani

The whole world has been under the grip of the deadly coronavirus, a great leveller, affecting people irrespective of their wealth and social status.

While over 130 countries are reeling from its attack, the land of the rising sun, Japan has made tremendous results in fighting with the novel coronavirus.

It is pertinent to be mentioned here that Japan was one of the first countries outside China hit by the coronavirus and now it’s one of the least-affected among developed nations.

Till the date, Japan has confirmed 15,575 positive cases while critics argue that Japan has been lax in testing and it is looking to keep the infection numbers low rather than conducting tests of the citizens.

In early February, the number of cases quickly escalated after the outbreak on the Diamond Princess cruise ship. But since then, Japan’s has been successful in keeping the curve under check.

On February 1, Japan imposed a ban on any visitors from China’s Hubei province. On February 13, it added Zhejiang province to the restricted list. The country has closed schools and staggered commute times at rush hour to decrease crowds.

Japan has imposed no lockdown. While much of the population continues to live the normal life, school closures has hit hard the students in Japan. Tokyo’s restaurants still continue to serve their guests and the rush-hour trains are operating with same footcounts.

Notably, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had expanded a state of emergency to cover the whole country in an attempt to prevent the further spread of the virus. Though the nation has not imposed a lockdown backed with fines or the penalties and has sunned widespread testing, Japan’s COVID-19 cases have fallen sharply.

Now, Japan has extended its nationwide state of emergency until May 31. The state of emergency allows local governments to direct businesses to close besides urging their residents to stay in homes.

Now the question arises that how Japan has been fortunate for only a small number of cases of COVID-19.

The simplest answers will be like

  • A culture which doesn’t promote handshakes and hugs as widely as in other G-7 countries.
  • Japan has rates of hand-washing above those in Europe.
  • Using face masks is common in Japan. People usually wear face masks when ill or have allergies. So this natural tendency may have also prevented the spread early on.
  • The measures include a request that people isolate and businesses close, although there are no fines or penalties to force compliance.
  • Emergency declared to combat the coronavirus to reduce commuting by at least 70 percent.
  • Japan has also shunned widespread testing for the virus, instead of focusing on targeting clusters of infection when they appear in an effort to snuff out any further spread.

And it’s not like Japan has placed strict measures on its citizens to keep the disease under control. It has neither imposed the level of quarantine like China to curb the outbreak nor has it been strict with its travel restrictions.

Many critics say that Japan has not conducted extensive coronavirus testing, especially in comparison to countries such as South Korea and Italy, which have aggressively tested people for the virus.

There are many angles of representing the many countries’ adversity but it is so true that Japan’s infection rate is relatively low, given its proximity to China.


Abinash is Sub-editor in ETV Bharat’s national desk.