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Thread: Japan is Weird: Japan was expecting a coronavirus explosion. Where is it?

  1. #1

    Japan is Weird: Japan was expecting a coronavirus explosion. Where is it?

    For those who have asked me how things are here in Japan, it is strange and mysterious. Are we just behind the curve of other nations, or is there something else going on?

    Most folks here are surprisingly chill, and ordinary life is basically still normal, with stores and most restaurants open and such (although I hear that business is slow). Are they just in the same ignorance of much of the world last week? Is there some other explanation? Stay tuned ...

    Japan was expecting a coronavirus explosion. Where is it?

    [BLOOMBERG: MAR 20, 2020] Japan was one of first countries outside of China hit by the coronavirus and now it’s one of the least-affected among developed nations. That’s puzzling health experts.

    Unlike China’s draconian isolation measures, the mass quarantine in much of Europe and big U.S. cities ordering people to shelter in place, Japan has imposed no lockdown. While there have been disruptions caused by school closures, life continues as normal for much of the population. Tokyo rush-hour trains are still packed and restaurants remain open.

    The looming question is whether Japan has dodged a bullet or is about to be hit. The government contends it has been aggressive in identifying clusters and containing the spread, which makes its overall and per capita number for infections among the lowest among developed economies. Critics argue Japan has been lax in testing, perhaps looking to keep the infection numbers low as it’s set to host the Olympics in Tokyo in July.

    The nation’s initial slow response to the virus, its handling of the Diamond Princess cruise ship — where about one in five people aboard became infected while it was quarantined in Yokohama — and the decision not to initially block travel from China left the nation open to criticism it could become home to a “second Wuhan.” Steps taken to contain the virus — such as shutting schools and calling off large events — now look tame in comparison to what others have done.

    But as of March 18, Japan has only had a little more than 900 confirmed cases — excluding the cruise ship. The U.S., France and Germany were all above 7,000 cases and Italy was nearing 36,000. Neighbor South Korea, which tested aggressively amid a surge of confirmed infections from late February, was at about 8,500 cases but its new infections are now tapering off.

    ... “Italy’s mortality rate is almost triple Japan’s,” said Yoko Tsukamoto, a professor of infection control at the Health Sciences University of Hokkaido. “Part of the reason is if you get tested, you get quarantined, so it means that they don’t have enough beds for relatively nonsevere patients.”

    Japan has tested more than 15,000 people as of Wednesday, and despite discouraging checks on those who don’t have symptoms or contact with a carrier, the infection rate lies at 5.6 percent . That compares to around 3 percent in South Korea, but 18 percent in Italy. But Japan still faces an uphill battle to contain the infection.

    ... Should Japan see a jump, it may be better suited than many peers to handle the surge. It has about 13 hospital beds per 1,000 people, the highest among G7 nations and more than triple the rate for Italy, the U.S., U.K. and Canada, according to World Bank data.

    Even if Japan may not be counting all those infected, hospitals aren’t being stretched thin and there has been no spike in pneumonia cases, health officials said. While the prime minister has stepped up border controls, a government expert panel said Thursday it may be possible to reopen schools in areas without new confirmed cases when the academic year begins in April.
    Gassho, J

    Last edited by Jundo; 03-20-2020 at 09:27 AM.

  2. #2
    Also, I am going to insist that, if reports are posted here, they are from reputable sources and organizations as much as possible.

    Some other stories in the news today. More hospitalizations that has been reported in all adult age groups in the U.S. ... (but note that this is --not-- fatalities). Still, let this be a warning to take care for our younger members ...

    While it has been widely reported that older people are the most vulnerable to the coronavirus outbreak, more young adults than expected will be hospitalized due to the virus, Dr. Peter Hotez said on Thursday.

    “We’re still early in this epidemic — up to around 10,000 cases in the United States but, so far, unfortunately, that’s a pattern that we’re seeing: lots of young adults.

    "It looks like a third of the hospitalized patients are 20-44 years of age,” the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine told “America’s Newsroom.”

    The fatality rates for people aged 20-54 are 1 percent and lower. However, Hotez responded that it is unknown whether the low fatality rate among younger people is due to being able to survive on ventilators and intensive care.

    “If that’s the case, that’s still a horrible ordeal for young adults.”

    It has been widely reported that the elderly population is at greater risk than the younger population when it comes to the coronavirus, but a report Wednesday suggested that millennials would do well to take the virus seriously.
    And something of comfort to all folks of all ages ... assuming the numbers from China can be trusted ...

    Coronavirus death rate in Wuhan is lower than previously thought

    A new study finds that the death rate in Wuhan, where the coronavirus outbreak started, is about 1.4%

    In Wuhan, China, where the outbreak of the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 first began, the death rate from the infection may have been lower than previously thought.

    Past studies estimated that between 2% and 3.4 % of known cases died. But a new study found that the death rate in the city was around 1.4%, according to a study published today (March 19) in the journal Nature Medicine.

    The new estimate is based on data available as of Feb. 29. At that point, Wuhan had logged 48,557 COVID-19 cases and 2,169 deaths. The numbers have increased since then, but yesterday China reported no new local cases of the coronavirus, suggesting that China's epidemic is now under control.

    ... Using a slew of public and previously published information, a group of researchers estimated the "symptomatic case fatality risk" or the probability of dying after developing symptoms of COVID-19 in Wuhan, was 1.4%. ...

    "Our inferences were based on a variety of sources, and have a number of caveats ...but considering the totality of the findings they nevertheless indicate that COVID-19 transmission is difficult to control," the authors wrote. "We might expect at least half of the population to be infected, even with aggressive use of community mitigation measures."

    The authors also re-iterated what's been echoing through the community: "Perhaps the most important target of mitigation measures would be to 'flatten out' the epidemic curve, reducing the peak demand on healthcare services and buying time for better treatment pathways to be developed," they wrote.
    This is still no time to be lax!

    Let's keep up the good fight! One life is still somebody's life!

    Gassho, J

    Last edited by Jundo; 03-20-2020 at 09:29 AM.

  3. #3
    Hi Jundo

    Japan is well behind the curve because of social distancing, mask wearing and other compliance and social norm factors.

    America is pretty much on the curve, even ahead of it.

    Feel free to message me if you wish to talk about issues around practicing with physical limitations. This is something I have been sitting with for a fair while and am happy to help with suggestions or just offer a listening ear.

  4. #4
    Hey all

    Don't forget either that the statistics we get are only as good as the data that goes in. So given that we know there are many more actual cases than confirmed cases for a variety of reasons it doesn't necessarily follow that the mortality rate, as an example, is a true reflection of what is actually happening. Sorry - delving deep into the world of duality, but when in Rome

    I also see there are lots of conspiracy theories emerging, if I may please offer a tiny bit of advice - don't go there! Listen to the government officials and follow the basic rules - fortunately I'm too old for spring break anyways!

    Gassho, Tokan

    Sat(insta-zazen) and LAH

  5. #5
    Some folks asked me about the situation here in Japan.

    The answer is that the situation is strange, and I can only describe it as being like a time machine back to America or UK one month ago. The CNN article today discusses the situation (my bold):

    There are fears a coronavirus crisis looms in Tokyo. Is it too late to change course?
    By Will Ripley, CNN

    Each day seems to bring more bad news for Tokyo.
    The daily count of new coronavirus cases has doubled in the past week, from about 40 in the final days of March to 97 on Thursday and 89 on Friday, according to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.
    If the current trend continues, the outlook is bleak, said Kentaro Iwata, an infection control specialist from Kobe University, who has repeatedly warned that Japan isn't doing enough to halt the spread of the virus.
    "Japan needs to have the courage to change, when we are aware we are on the wrong path," Iwata said. "We might see the next New York City in Tokyo."
    As of Friday, Japan had 3,329 confirmed cases and 74 deaths.
    "The beginning of the burst of the infections in Spain, France, Italy, New York City -- was really like Tokyo right now," said Iwata.
    He says there needs to be more testing.
    As of Friday, Tokyo had tested fewer than 4,000 people in a city of 13.5 million. And just 39,466 people had been tested in this nation of 125 million, according to the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare.
    That's a tiny fraction compared to countries in the region and around the world. As of Friday, South Korea -- which has a much smaller population than Japan -- had tested more than 440,000 people.

    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has repeatedly stated the situation inside Japan does not warrant declaring a state of emergency or imposing a lockdown in Tokyo.
    He said such drastic measures would further damage an economy already grappling with the severe economic fallout of the coronavirus and the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 summer Olympics.
    Also this:

    Even in the coronavirus pandemic, the Japanese won't work from home until [Prime Minister] Shinzo Abe makes them

    A video interview with the Kobe University specialist in infectious disease control mentioned in the top article ...

    As to Jundo & Family: Right now they have requested folks in our town (1 hour from Tokyo) to stay at home ... but only nights and weekends. School is out of session until 4/19 ... but for some reason, there is class this coming Monday (my daughter is not going!) The stores and malls seem pretty busy when I pass by, and the parking lots are full. Some malls closed, but only for the weekend. My family is basically planning to stay in our house for the coming year, barely venturing out, as if we are on a sailboat crossing the sea. I do take them out for a little bicycling, hiking and tennis, but only if we don't run into other people. I have gone to shops, but generally ones where I can access the food outside or they bring it outside to me. We are being pretty careful.

    On the other hand, my wife has an 80 year old mother, and her brothers and their families. They are still working and I am not sure of the situation there.

    Personally, compared to Korea and many other places in Asia, I think it shocking how little the Japanese government is doing, and how little testing. I even wonder if the Prime Minister is thinking of this as nature's way of helping to ease Japan's problem with an aging population. Or maybe they remain obsessed with the economy. I hope not, but it has crossed my mind, and it is hard to explain the attitude here. I am not usually prone to conspiracy theories.

    Gassho, Jundo

    Last edited by Jundo; 04-04-2020 at 09:35 AM.

  6. #6

    I think that it is human nature to do that which is least painful or most pleasurable. Denial (not the river in Egypt) causes the least amount of pain. Denial will continue untill it is too painful to continue it.

    Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__

  7. #7
    It was announced today that a public park and camp ground, less than a mile from Treeleaf Tsukuba, will be converted to a field hospital for the less serious Corona cases.

    We have had several dozen known cases in town for several days, but numbers are increasing. Today, the Prime Minister of Japan finally called a State of Emergency, but only for certain large cities such as Tokyo and its nearby suburbs. We are just over the line, so have not yet been included in our Ibaraki Prefecture.

    Our son’s high school cancelled all classes until May 8th (we are pushing them to go online). No decision yet from our daughter's public elementary school. I am not sending the kids in any case anyway.

    Citizen Jundo
    Last edited by Jundo; 04-06-2020 at 03:24 PM.

  8. #8
    Our "state of emergency" is pretty weak, however. It is a "recommendation" (not mandatory, no penalty) to close or avoid the following kinds of places ... very Japanese list ...

    The gov will strongly recommend to close those facilities in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba, Osaka, Hyogo and Fukuoka]

    University, cram schools [for college entrance exam prep], home supply centers, Karaoke shop, swimming pool, bowling center, skating center, Library, theatre, museum, art exhibition, live house, sports gym, batting center, golf hitting center, car license school, barber, hair salon, izakaya [Japanese drinking pub], pachinko, Game Center.
    Oh my. A rather ineffectual list, if you ask me. I fear we are in trouble soon here in Japan.

    Citizen Jundo

  9. #9
    Member Onka's Avatar
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    May 2019
    Rural Queensland, Australia
    Japan's bit by bit response sounds very familiar. Here, it was business as usual until it wasn't. Our PM has a background in marketing so his smooth rhetoric that we'll be ok initially upset and disappointed the medical and scientific community who thankfully got some airtime and newspaper pieces put out there. I think this started the change in government position here. Fingers crossed Japan's medical and scientific community will start to dictate the Covid19 discourse. We're still relatively fortunate in having roughly the same geographical area as the US but with around 300 million less people so I think proportionally we'll come out better than more densely populated countries. Where Japan may go ok is that unlike places like Italy there's not a culture of hugging and kissing and the wearing of masks in cities is already practiced in public.
    Be well citizen Jundo and Jundo Roshi
    Onka Anna
    Sat today
    On Ka
    穏 火
    aka Anna Kissed.
    No Gods No Masters.
    Life is too serious to be taken seriously.

  10. #10
    Unfortunatly, here the government is doing everything he can to help the spread of the virus. The Healthy Minister will be fired today and substituted by someone who is against social distancing and isolation. The President ordered small and middle towns to stop the lockdown, in his words "people will die, it's life; we can't hurt the economy beacause of it.". Today my town officially ended the lockdown. Every thing will now open and the order is for the stores and shops to open and people to resume life as usual. We will continue to keep it in our house, but the shops, banks, gyms and restaurants were full of people today. It is hard to live in a country where the government is in denial of the danger of this pandemic.

  11. #11
    Be safe, Mateus. That must be so frustrating.

    Sat today, lah
    求道芸化 Kyudo Geika
    I am just a priest-in-training, please do not take anything I say as a teaching.

  12. #12
    Thank you, Geika.

  13. #13
    Argh! I'm sorry Mateus. We could do so much better and save so many from suffering, if only. What is the weather like there, maybe warmth could blunt the outbreak a little bit? I've been really hoping it doesn't like the summer heat when it gets here.

    清 道 寂田
    I am a novice priest. Any resemblance my posts may have to actual teachings about the Dharma, living or dead, is purely coincidental (and just my attempt to be helpful).

  14. #14

    I think sometimes that we should just cut out the middlemen, and put scientists and other experts in charge as our elected leaders rather than the amateurs, dim bulbs and sometime narcissistic sociopaths we have in some places. Oh, we would still elect them, but there would be actual qualifications required. A Phd Prime Minister heading a cabinet of economists and other scholars, and a parliament of Noble Prize winners. It might not be perfect, but a few world problems might be on the road to solving by now.

    Citizen Jundo

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post

    I think sometimes that we should just cut out the middlemen, and put scientists and other experts in charge as our elected leaders rather than the amateurs, dim bulbs and sometime narcissistic sociopaths we have in some places. Oh, we would still elect them, but there would be actual qualifications required. A Phd Prime Minister heading a cabinet of economists and other scholars, and a parliament of Noble Prize winners. It might not be perfect, but a few world problems might be on the road to solving by now.

    Citizen Jundo
    Well, maybe a few humanitarians in there.

    You are doing the right thing by keeping your family isolated, Jundoshi. Individual efforts are what will make the difference.

    Sat today. LAH.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Jakuden View Post
    Argh! I'm sorry Mateus. We could do so much better and save so many from suffering, if only. What is the weather like there, maybe warmth could blunt the outbreak a little bit? I've been really hoping it doesn't like the summer heat when it gets here.

    Thank you, Jakuden. Today I woke up with the news that Bolsonaro decided not to fire his Health Minister. The inconstancy of his decisions make him impredictible as a politician.
    I don't have good news about the summer heat and corona. One of the states that has the greatest number of infected people here is Ceara, which is just abouve the Equator and one of the hottest states in Brazil. At least here, the heat is making little difference in the spread of the virus. But I don't know if the virus will behave the same way independently of the temperature, here the spread could be due to other factors.

  17. #17
    AS OF 5/22

    A couple of folks wrote me to ask about the situation in Japan.

    Long story short, incredibly low rates reported right now, and my prefecture and city (basically a suburb of Tokyo) has not had a new reported case (let alone a death) in several weeks. Even the entire city of Tokyo reported only 3 new cases today. It is very strange. We are basically "opening up" here.

    For what it is worth (I am not a doctor), were I to guess why rates are so low here in Japan, it is certainly not government policies (social customs such as wearing a face mask and not shaking hands play a minor role), but possibly the following:

    "We found that countries without universal policies of BCG vaccination, such as Italy, the Netherlands, and the United States, have been more severely affected compared to countries with universal and long-standing BCG policies," noted the researchers led by Gonzalo Otazu, assistant professor of biomedical sciences at NYIT. ...

    Iran, for instance, which has a current universal BCG vaccination policy that only started in 1984, has an elevated mortality rate with 19.7 deaths per million inhabitants, they said. [So older and more vulnerable people not because born before then]

    In contrast, Japan, which started its universal BCG policy in 1947, has approximately 100 times fewer deaths per million people, with 0.28 deaths, according to the study.

    Brazil, which started universal vaccination in 1920 has an even lower mortality rate of 0.0573 deaths per million inhabit .."
    The first article, quoted above, is a little dated

    More recent, although more cautious and ambiguous in conclusions about BCG:

    The testing rate here in Japan is incredibly low too. Basically, they only test if someone has severe symptoms for many days. If most people are having no symptoms, or only mild symptoms, they are not tested. However, even so, there are no signs of rushes on most hospitals, or excess numbers of deaths over normal rates. This indicates low prevalence despite the lack of testing.

    It is a theory anyway ...

    Not a Doctor Jundo

    PS - Mateus and others, is that mortality figure still generally right for Brazil? I was under the impression that your country is so sadly being hit hard.
    Last edited by Jundo; 05-22-2020 at 06:43 PM.

  18. #18
    This reports, for example ...

    COVID-19 deaths worldwide per one million population as of May 22, 2020, by country

    The numbers shown here were collected by Johns Hopkins University,

    Confirmed deaths (absolute) / Population (in millions) / Deaths per million

    Spain 27,940 / 46.72 / 597.98

    United Kingdom 36,042 / 66.49 / 542.07

    Italy 32,486 / 60.43 / 537.57

    Sweden 3,871 / 10.18 / 380.14

    United States 94,590 / 327.17 / 289.12

    Canada 6,267 / 37.06 / 169.11


    Brazil / 20,047 / 209.47 / 95.7

    Iran 7,249 / 81.8 / 88.62

    Japan 777 / 126.53 / 6.14

    India 3,585 / 1,352.62 / 2.65

    More here ...

    Last edited by Jundo; 05-22-2020 at 05:53 PM.

  19. #19
    I am going to put this here just for the record, and nobody should put any weight on it because I am no more than another nitwit without a medical degree, do not listen to any of my speculations!

    This is just my guess about what is going on in Japan (and maybe other places in Asia) ...

    We have almost no reported corona cases here now. Zero for my town and Ibaraki prefecture for weeks. Only 3 cases in all of Tokyo yesterday. l say a possible reason (with the caution that l am a nitwit with no medical degree): (1) BCG tuberculosis vaccine nearly universal in Japanese population (as in Vietnam with ZERO deaths, lndia etc.), leading to (2) mild to no symtoms below testing threshold being prevalent, coupled with (3) high threshold for testing, leading to (4) reports of testing finding few cases, but (5) the odd Japanese celebrity death (e.g., lifelong smoker Japanese comedian Shimura Ken) and other positive cases because BCG is never 100% effective in a population plus foreigners from non-BCG countries. That, with whatever closing the borders, social distancing and contact tracing that was done, was a combo sufficient to do the trick in Japan (also lndia, Vietnam, etc.). A little more on this, and details of the mechanism: BCG not common USA, UK, ltaly, Spain, etc. places with high mortality.

    Atlas of BCG use worldwide country by country. Fascinating to compare hard hit and low hit countries. There does seem to be a correlation.

    I just put this here so that I can seem very prescient ... or a total fool ... when we finally figure out what is going on.

    Citizen Jundo Not A Doctor
    Last edited by Jundo; 05-24-2020 at 12:08 AM.

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    We have almost no corona cases here now.
    We don't know that.

    Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by Jishin View Post
    We don't know that.

    Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__
    Should say "reported cases," but no obvious rush on hospitals or excess morbidity.

    Fool Not a Dr. Jundo
    Last edited by Jundo; 05-23-2020 at 04:00 PM.

  22. #22
    I didn't know we stopped the BCG here in the UK, I remember having it and still have the small scar, it was a bit of a rite of passage.

    I've been looking at Japan and comparing the response and effects of the virus to the UK and, well,it's not good for my mental health!



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