Differences in epidemic prevention between Korea and Japan

Differences in epidemic prevention between Korea and Japan 2
Differences in epidemic prevention between Korea and Japan 2

South Korea has received global praise for quickly increasing its testing capacity in a short time and to date has tested more than 394,000 people, detecting nearly 9,600 cases.

Japan, a country with about 127 million people, more than twice the population of South Korea, has only conducted more than 48,000 tests on about 28,000 people and detected more than 1,700 cases of infection.

Medical staff disinfect a residential area in Seoul, South Korea, March 3.

Japan has for weeks been at the center of a debate.

Like the US, the Japanese government was criticized in the first weeks of the outbreak for not promptly improving testing capacity.

According to guidance from the Japanese government, non-elderly patients are advised not to see a doctor if their fever has not lasted more than 4 days, and they also cannot be tested for nCoV without a doctor’s recommendation.

But proponents of the approach argue that it allows the Japanese health system to focus its limited resources on those who are truly seriously ill and keeps deaths relatively low.

`People should not go to medical facilities if they are not very sick,` said Hitoshi Oshitani, a virology professor at Tohoku University and a member of a Japanese government advisory council.

According to him, it is impossible to detect everyone infected with the virus because young people often do not show symptoms, so the best strategy is to focus on the most serious patients and ask those with symptoms.

A crowded medical waiting room clearly poses a risk to people who are not infected with the virus, Professor Oshitani said.

Japan believes that inaccurate testing causes even greater harm.

In the US, testing capacity is increasing rapidly.

The shortage of medical supplies requires the government to allocate resources to where they are needed most.

`If you have no symptoms, you do not need to get tested for nCoV. We encourage all Americans to comply with that to ensure resources for testing are enough for those who show symptoms,`

According to some statistics, Japan seems to have been successful with this approach.

Differences in epidemic prevention between Korea and Japan

A line of people wearing masks walks on the street in Chuo district, Tokyo, Japan.

However, executive director of the Japanese Institute of Health Administration Research Masahiro Kami said that insufficient testing could potentially prevent the government from properly assessing the severity of the epidemic and cause people to let down their guard.

`There is no way to accurately grasp the situation. As a result, we cannot develop appropriate measures` to prevent the virus from spreading, he emphasized.

The behavior of the Japanese people has proven Kami’s assertion.

Meanwhile in Korea, the government quickly licensed the private sector to conduct nCoV testing, and set up hundreds of mobile rapid testing sites.

`A proper diagnosis helps communicate risks to patients, helping them take appropriate preventive measures,` commented Hwang, Seung-sik, a professor of public health at Seoul National University.

To isolate patients with mild symptoms and prevent them from transmitting the disease to other family members, the South Korean government has established 400 centers where patients’ health is monitored and quickly transferred to specialized care.

`The track, trace and treat approach may place a burden on the health system, but leaving patients in the dark creates ethical problems and is medically ineffective,` Hwang said.

South Korea saw the number of cases increase rapidly in the early stages of the outbreak but has significantly slowed the spread in recent weeks.

Last week, the Japanese government’s expert panel said it was possible that Covid-19 had `spread rampantly` and that Tokyo’s streets were finally starting to empty of people.

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