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Editorial: Amid crisis, people in Japan must do more to reduce contact with others by 80%

The main goal of the state of emergency declared in Japan over the novel coronavirus is to reduce person-to-person contact to the maximum extent possible, and with absolute certainty suppress the spread of infection in order to prevent the collapse of the health care system, which is in a critical state.

Looking at the past week, however, behavioral changes in response to calls to stay at home, and social assistance to make that possible have, unfortunately, both been insufficient. On the one hand, there are those who have limited going out to the utmost, while on the other hand, there are those who cannot help but commute to work or otherwise leave their homes. There are also those who think they will not be affected by going out.

Both the health care system and the virus testing system are hard pressed, and some medical institutions have surpassed their limitations. In-hospital infections are also a serious problem.

The collapse of the health care system occurs before an explosion of infections. If we continue to proceed as we have, the situation will turn into one in which we will not only be unable to save patients with COVID-19, but all those who require emergency medicine, whether it be someone who has had a heart illness or stroke, or someone who's been in a traffic accident. It's not just somebody else's problem -- for anyone.

Experts who are advising the government have come up with analysis that if society as a whole reduces its contact with people by 80%, the number of individuals infected with the coronavirus will turn to a decrease in about two weeks, and that the effects can be confirmed in approximately a month. They have also said that if the decrease in contact were 70%, it would take a little under 2 months for the effects to be confirmed, while a 65% decrease in contact would require some 3 months. With a reduction of 60%, the number of people getting infected on a day-to-day basis would not change.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said when declaring a state of emergency in Tokyo and six other prefectures, "at minimum 70%, but 80% if possible" about the rate at which the public should be reducing contact with others. However, he should be strictly calling on the necessity of reducing contact by 80% once again. We want our political leaders who should be prompting the behavioral changes of the public to have a sense of crisis and be specific in what they are asking of us.

Stay at home as much as possible. If you'd usually be seeing 10 people, reduce that number to two or less. Decrease the number of times you go shopping for daily necessities.

The number of commuters is far from being reduced by 80%; the adoption of teleworking requires more efforts by authorities.

By implementing coronavirus countermeasures bit by bit, such as calling on businesses to close temporarily and providing benefits, it will take longer for the spread of the infection to die down, leading to more deaths. Now is the time to think of lives, not the economy, and to boldly reduce activity in a short period of time.

It is possible for people with no symptoms, or with mild symptoms of COVID-19, to infect others. We hope that everyone looks back on their daily activities with the notion that they may be a possible carrier of the virus. Even if the government's stay-at-home instructions and other calls are not legally binding, let us take the initiative to determine what will raise the risk of infection and what will not, and act accordingly.

Our own actions will support health care workers who are stretched to their limits, and possibly save someone's life. Each and every one of us is being tested.

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