It recently emerged that a Japanese man contracted a new coronavirus after driving two busloads of tourists from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the center of a deadly outbreak of pneumonia caused by the virus. The driver is thought to have caught the virus from one of the tourists.
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It had been expected that anyone who spent a long time with infected patients inside an enclosed space could come down with the virus, as is seen in household transmission. In this respect, the driver's infection was within the scope of assumption.
Japan will probably see more cases of human-to-human transmission, and so it is essential to examine issues that surfaced in the driver's case.
The government has been following up on people who were in contact with infected individuals. Certainly, this is a necessary measure, but is it going to publicly announce all of the destinations visited by infected people?
The government should specify well-grounded criteria for its responses without simply leaving measures to combat the globally fast-spreading coronavirus up to each local body. By providing such criteria, it can relieve people's anxieties and curb possible discrimination of infected patients.
One outstanding issue is that the nature of the new virus has not yet been revealed. It also remains unclear how easily the virus can spread from infected patients with mild or no symptoms or during the incubation period.
If the coronavirus can be passed from infected individuals with mild or no symptoms at a high probability, the number of coronavirus carriers whose connection with Wuhan is unclear will inevitably rise in Japan. In such a scenario, the government would need to take new steps, so it is essential to start preparing now.
It is also necessary to consider how to oversee Japanese nationals who arrived in Tokyo from Wuhan on government-chartered flights.
The government is calling on the returnees to stay home or otherwise avoid going out in public until after the incubation period passes, even if they do not test positive for the virus and have no symptoms. Even then, some people may be concerned that those people could be carrying the virus and could infect others, including family members. This would also leave people around them restless.
The government is urged to take measures to address such concerns and distribute relevant information in a careful manner.
It is possible that the number of infections could shoot up in Japan. It is important for the government to present multiple scenarios to the public and provide explanations about necessary measures to be taken in advance, not only to medical institutions but also to companies and individuals.
Disclosure of relevant information is imperative not just to prevent the spread of infections, but to curb possible panic in society as well.