Fighting COVID-19 the Japanese Way

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The Wall Street Journal reports that Japan has lifted its state of emergency now that COVID-19 infections are under control. “We have showed the power of the Japanese model,” declared Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. But what is that model?

That model, in contrast to many other developed countries, didn’t include broad testing to establish the general extent of infection. Instead, when a person with clear Covid-19 symptoms was identified, health officials used a shoe-leather interviewing approach to trace the origin of infection clusters. Once the origin was identified, those connected to the cluster—in one case a pleasure boat in Tokyo, in another a concert venue in Osaka—were also tested and isolated as necessary. “We’ve been quite early in detecting new cases through this cluster-tracing approach,” said Kazuho Taguchi, a health ministry official involved in Japan’s virus response.

So that’s it? Just shoe-leather cluster tracing? That sounds promising, but I wonder if—

In declaring a nationwide state of emergency on April 16, Mr. Abe asked businesses to close or reduce hours voluntarily and white-collar workers to work from home. People were told to avoid close contact with others in crowded, confined spaces. Many restaurants remained open but closed by 8 p.m. The voluntary request was enough to shut down shopping districts and sharply reduce traffic in urban centers, and soon the surge of infections ebbed. Mr. Abe also called in late February for schools to close and major sporting and cultural events to be suspended.

OK, so aside from the business closures, working at home, avoiding close contact, shutting down shopping districts, closing schools, and suspending sporting events—aside from all that, all they did was cluster tracing. Perhaps the Japanese model is not quite as unique as they believe.

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Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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