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Japan’s Social Distancing Norms: What India Can Learn?

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Japan has created an example on how countries can control the spread of coronavirus. It has also depicted that with the right commitment, COVID-19 can be contained even in densely populated areas.

Interestingly, when the pandemic hit Japan the nation initially did not undergo an extreme lockdown nor conducted intense COVID-19 testing like its Korean neighbour. But, the rise in the number of COVID-19 cases was still considerably low for a long time. Even though, the cases had surged ever since, the country has still been quite effecting in containing the spread of COVID-19.

Remarkably, Japan ranks 11 in the world in terms of population but is at the 56 position in terms of total number of coronavirus cases. With a population of over 12.64 crores, Japan has a total of 22,890 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 18,814 recovered cases (figures at the time of writing). However, on the other hand, Russia and Germany who have similar populations as Japan have already registered more than 2 Lakh and 7 Lakh mark.

COVID-19 Lessons from Japan, India Can Learn

  • Social Greetings (without hugs and handshakes)
  • Normalising face masks
  • Stimuli for compliance
  • Strong adherence to law

One thing that most world epidemiologists can agree on is the fact that Japan is indeed an example to follow when it comes to social distancing. Furthermore, social distancing is a norm on the island nation rather than a new guideline imposed after the pandemic as has been the case for most nations.

Despite its dense localities, Japan is quite famous around the world for its relative comfort with social isolation. Japanese culture of greeting by bowing (instead of hugs and handshakes) to maintain personal space has definitely been a natural blessing in the current global health crisis.

Moreover, there is also a social culture of individuals wearing face masks even during a common cold, flu or cough. A face mask helps to avoid spread of communicable diseases by blocking the infectious droplets while coughing or sneezing.

Even before the pandemic hit, most Japanese people would wear masks if they have cold to prevent people in their surroundings from falling sick. Furthermore, it also sends out a clear signal to others to keep their distance. It is particularly useful in times of the current pandemic as asymptomatic patients have proved to be the major carriers of the novel virus.

Eventually, like many other nations, Japan also witnessed a significant increase in its coronavirus cases. Many feared that the sudden surge in cases could get too overwhelming for the nation’s healthcare infrastructure.

It forced the Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo to announce a state of emergency on April 7. The emergency majorly covered seven of its more populous regions including Tokyo, Chiba, Hyogo, Osaka, Fukuoka, Kanagawa and Saitama. 

Notably, it was the first time in the country that a state of emergency had to be issued. It clearly gave out the signal that there was a need for stricter compliance of social distancing norms.

Aware of the possibility of a hard blow to the country’s economy,Abe Shinzo also announced an economic stimulus package of around $1 trillion. It is worth noting that the amount is estimated to be around 20% of Japan’s GDP. Additionally, he had also announced toaround $55 billion to households whose income was affected by the current pandemic.

Timely announcements of significant economic packages further act as an encouragement for the masses to comply with the government’s guidelines. Moreover, the Parliament of Japan had recently enacted special measures to the law which gives central government an almost freer hand in dealing with a disease outbreak.

The law enacts that a state of emergency can only be issued when there is a risk of extremely serious damage to the health and lives of the public and the particular disease has the capability to rapidly spread across the nation with a tremendous impact on the daily lives of citizens and the economy.

Furthermore, if we compare, in India, crimes soon began to be reported from across states in the country mocking the government’s lockdown restrictions. On the other hand, Japan is known for the strong sense of discipline among its masses and compliance with the government’s guidelines and laws especially in the times of a crisis.

Also Read: Best Face Masks To Buy For Protection Against COVID-19

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