While the government and health authorities of Japan have been doing their best to fight the COVID-19 outbreak, it seems like the efforts made by individuals have not enough. In my own neighbourhood, I go out only to get groceries or pickup some takeout. However, everytime I go out it seems like there is no pandemic going on at all.

People in Fuchu, Tokyo

People of all ages still casually walk the streets and we are nowhere near the level of lockdowns in other countries.

While the virus hasn’t hit Japan in the magnitude that it has hit the United States and Europe, it doesn’t mean we are safe. I spoke with a few medical professionals to get their take on why everyone, especially people in Japan (government and individuals) need to take stronger measures to flatten the curve.

Why Should we Take COVID-19 More Seriously?

“The novel Coronavirus has many symptoms ranging from asymptomatic to severe forms, which can lead to hospitalization. It is very important that everyone is informed of its severity and transmission,” says Mark Ularte, a Clinical Laboratory Scientist in Vancouver, Canada. Mark holds a degree in in microbiology and cellular biology and has urged people on his own social media accounts to stay home.

We see a lot of younger people in Japan and the rest of the world who aren’t taking this virus very seriously, likely due to its low mortality rate among young people. However, Mark says that everyone needs to take precautions, regardless of your age.

“The novel Coronavirus does not discriminate who it will infect. We are seeing more and more young people being affected by the Coronavirus here in North America, some even needing medical intervention (i.e. requiring ventilation). No one is immune to the Coronavirus and presently there is no cure for it,” he says.

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Furthermore, it is not just about your own safety, but the safety of the people around you. “Millennials need to start asking themselves if they would be okay with transmitting the disease to people who may not be able to survive it i.e. their loved ones such as their parents, grandparents, siblings. Would they be OK carrying that burden?” says Jean Mendoza, a Vancouver nurse who has been working in the city for the past eight years.

“There is some complacency that may stem from the fact that reports from China showed that elderly people were most affected during the initial report of the pandemic – which may be true. However, the young may feel like they are invincible, that they are resilient and cannot contract the disease. I would argue that this is completely incorrect,” says Jean.

“Recent reports show that people as young as 10 are being affected and are fighting for their lives right now. The media chooses what they want to broadcast. We need to take into account that this is a deadly disease that does not care how old you are. Everyone is at risk. ”

What is the Point of Social Distancing?

A lot of people just aren’t well-informed and don’t understand how healthy people going out to restaurants or parks could possibly add to the problem.

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“The topic of Social Distancing has come up significantly these past few weeks and has even made its way into several social media platforms as a Stay at Home movement. Being in a close social gathering like in a restaurant or park can harbor the risk of transmitting the virus to others,” says Mark.

“The novel Coronavirus is very smart in that some people may not exhibit symptoms or have symptoms appear nearly 2 weeks after being infected. Individuals that are showing mild to no symptoms and going out to public places can lead to community spread (see diagram below).”


Community spread is something we do not want to happen as this can be taxing on health care providers.

“Regardless if you are healthy or not, if you touch a contaminated surface you are susceptible in contracting the disease. Research has shown that the virus can be suspended through airborne particles and can survive up to 3 hours, on copper for 4 hours, cardboard up to 24 hours and steel up to 72 hours,” explains Jean. “It is very important to stay away from high contact surfaces such as parks and restaurants.”

For those looking for more information, Jean suggests visiting the CDC website immediately.

Advice for Citizens

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While different media outlets are reporting different things, what should you as the individual do?

“My advice is that we as citizens should start listening to our health officials and stay home to limit the transmission of the disease. As a nurse, I understand the sweat and blood it takes to make sure our patients are well and safe,” says Jean. “They are working countless hours to help the save lives of many, so the least we can do is stay home and limit the spread.”

Both Jean and Mark recommend practicing strict hygiene protocols; washing our hands, sanitizing contact surfaces, social distancing, and staying home are simple measures that we as citizens can take that can help lower the chances of increased transmission.

I hope you are all staying safe during these difficult times. It’s important to remember that we’re all on the same team here. The government is definitely not perfect, but they are doing what they can. Stay informed, stay home, and let’s all get through this together.

For more reading and resources on COVID-19, check out:

2 thoughts on “Why Japan Needs to Take Coronavirus More Seriously: Words from the COVID-19 Frontline

  1. David Boone (moonhawk81) says:

    Here in the States, we’re beginning to see a large public backlash against sheltering-in-place and social distancing as people who don’t feel sick get tired of being told to stay home. Concern that such behavior might endanger vulnerable family members seems to be quickly losing ground to the concept of self-gratification. . .It’s rather difficult to believe that just 3 generations ago this same nation adhered to very similar policies long enough to virtually wipe out polio. . .whatever happened to that sense of social responsibility?

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