Overseas Chinese in Japan voluntarily give away masks to the Japanese public near the Nagoya Station, Japan on Thursday, reminding the public to pay attention to protecting against the coronavirus. (Photo: GT)
Japanese residents and experts expressed cautious optimism about the control of the COVID-19 outbreak in the country, which on Sunday reported 1,514 cases and 31 deaths (including those related to cruise ship Diamond Princess).
Some Chinese experts predicted in February that Japan would follow China as the second country to experience a massive outbreak of COVID-19.
But after headlines surrounding the 697 infected patients on the disease-stricken cruise ship, the predicted explosive surge in cases did not arrive.
There were 63 new confirmed COVID-19 cases reported in Japan on Saturday, the biggest number since the outbreak excluding those linked to the ship, according to Japanese media NHK News.
Liu Hongjun, a research fellow at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations in Beijing, told the Global Times on Sunday that the limited increase in confirmed cases showed the Japanese government's necessary proactive response to the epidemic before the July Tokyo Olympic Games.
Liu argued that Japan did not conduct a national lockdown as the country's people were familiar with disasters and showed a strong sense of organization.
They cooperated with the government at such times, Liu said.
Chinese living in Japan told the Global Times that local residents' healthy habits played a role in helping the country dodge a serious outbreak.
"They always pay attention to washing their hands and rinsing their mouths in daily life, and also wear masks in flu and pollen seasons," a University of Tokyo student who gave the surname Meng told the Global Times on Sunday.
Meng said Japan applied a "passive strategy" involving limited nucleic acid tests and home quarantine, a similar approach that certain European countries are now taking.
Sun Wenwen, a Chinese woman living in Tokyo, said her company canceled all business trips and prepared masks for employees in early February.
Despite early successes, Japanese experts and residents remained cautious about the future course of the epidemic in the country.
The number of COVID-19 cases seemed small in Japan as hospitals only accepted critical patients, which brought uncertainty to the actual infected population, Tomoo Marukawa, a professor at Tokyo University, told the Global Times on Sunday.
Although the epidemic had been postponed, any slacking off could bring a new peak, warned Kazuyuki Aihara, an expert in biological information systems at the University of Tokyo.
Kazunori Tomono , an infection control and prevention expert at Osaka University Hospital, estimated that the epidemic would probably be similar to a seasonal flu that usually lasts six months.
But it was hard to predict an end due to a lack of knowledge about the novel coronavirus, he told Japanese media Nikkei.
Liu Yuping, a Chinese graduate student at Waseda University in Tokyo, told the Global Times on Sunday that she worried as the country relied largely on individual protection without systematic prevention and control measures.
A shortage of materials including masks was also alarming, Liu said.