While people in Germany are locking themselves away again in the fight against the coronavirus, Nippon is rehearsing pandemic socializing before the Olympic Games. Although the number of infected people in Japan is higher than in the first wave in spring or the second in summer, it is no longer just robots clapping in the stands at football matches.
Instead, sports arenas are again filled to a third or half with people. Even indoor sports like traditional sumo wrestling are once again becoming a socially distant crowd magnet. And for a long time, travel in the country was unrestrictedly promoted with government subsidies – hotels such as flights and rail travel.
However, the virologists look closely. Japan is currently testing how normal it is to live with COVID-19. The lax attitude is currently changing slightly because the new corona case numbers are often over 2000 people per day. Japan stands out negatively in Asia, but it can still be regarded as a role model worldwide. 125 million people live in the country, there are particularly many old people.
The Tokyo city government has asked seniors over 65 years of age to stop traveling. Travelers from some major cities were also excluded from the government’s bonus program. But the country still seems (hopefully) a long way from European restrictions.
In fact, the government still firmly believes that the Tokyo Summer Olympics, postponed from 2020 to 2021, will really take place this time. As an experiment, Japan is gradually opening its borders to foreign guests. With China, the travel regulations for business people have just been made easier. In this way, the quarantine is not required on request. In the summer there should then no longer be any major restrictions for the hoped-for flood of Olympic tourists.
A vaccination against SARS-Cov-2 should not be prescribed, but a negative virus test should. In addition, Japan relies on technology to be able to trace the traces of tourists in the event of infection. Visitors don’t just have to download Japan’s Corona app on their cell phones. In addition, each guest is assigned a personal identification number. But for all its love of technology, Japan does not want to invade privacy as massively as is common in South Korea. There, the authorities can access the localization data of cell phones.
Japan, on the other hand, wants to do without GPS tracking, according to a media report. Instead, visitors are urged to keep their own logbook. However, consideration is being given to registering visitors using a barcode at certain locations.
Japan has always tried everything possible with electronics – and often the impossible. Every Thursday our author Martin Kölling reports on the latest trends here.
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If the first major global event after the outbreak of the pandemic goes well, Japan will become a role model for the world. But until then the country has to survive the new wave first. It would come as expected and will probably peak in January or February, said Shigeru Omi, the chairman of a committee for corona measures.
Between opening and infection chains
Japan is relying on a balancing act between a pandemic and an economic life that is as undisturbed as possible. The government and society accept significantly more infections than their Asian neighbors. Taiwan does not find any cases locally, South Korea applies massive brakes with 500 infections per day.
But experts warn that Japan has now reached a critical point in its plan to track down chains of infection in clusters using traditional methods. Because after the number of newly found infected people is consistently over 2000 people per day, the local health authorities can no longer keep up with the necessary interviews.
The virologists are therefore calling for renewed restrictions on lifestyle in order not to turn into an exponential increase as in Europe or the USA. This will now show whether Japan’s secret weapon in the fight against the virus is working again after the relaxed months: the great willingness of large parts of the population to more or less voluntarily reduce social contacts, wear masks and disinfect their hands.