Japan is one of the countries that has been least affected by the Wuflu. In terms of places where I trust the statistics, it’s done extremely well. Deaths are down in single digits per million (8) and it’s under 200/million of actual cases. It’s not as good as Taiwan, say, but it’s similar to countries like S Korea, Australia and NZ  – all three have higher case counts / million and lower deaths but there’s not much in it. Japan and all of the aforementioned nations have numbers that are tiny fractions of the numbers of most of Europe, the USA or Canada. On the Book of Feces the question was posed as to why? and what Japan did? Especially what did it do that was different to Europe and N America? And was the government leadership particularly decisive etc.

My reply to those questions was as follows (edited slightly for sense and to include some follow-on comments):

The government only showed a degree of leadership. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t swift and decisive either. I think real cause was the country saw the Diamond Princess quarantine featured on the news daily and so everyone got the message about social distancing and the like a bit earlier than other countries and the news reported daily about the virus and the toilet paper panic and so on.

Two things that the government did was stop flights from (initially) China and Korea relatively early (though IIRC it was about the same time as Trump did for the US) and then not much later insist that all arrivals quarantine/self-isolate. That stopped the addition of new cases from abroad. Also as far as I know anyone who tests positive gets put in an isolation area, originally in hospitals but later on in unused hotels as well, until some days (14?) after they subsequently test negative. In addition while not being particularly intrusive about tracking and tracing, Japan has always tracked and tested people close to the infected person and put them in isolation too if positive, plus they’ve recommended (and people have mostly followed the advice) to self-isolate for some days if they were exposed and didn’t test positive. They also stopped mass events (baseball/soccer matches etc.). Some of this was mandatory, but a lot of it seems to have been the sports bodies / event organizers coming up with ideas on their own.

Other than that, and other than a 2 week or so almost total shut down end of April-mid May, the national government hasn’t been that active in making rules. What it has done though is communicate well about what not to do and recommend that people don’t do that. There was strong emphasis on hygiene (washing hands, sneezing into elbows …) and avoiding the 3Cs – Crowded, enClosed and Close contact. Thus, yes when I went to Tokyo at the end of Feb masks were ubiquitous on public transport but that wasn’t a mandatory thing and it wasn’t a universal one (it couldn’t be because there weren’t masks available in stores so people ran out)- even today, when masks are readily available, most people but not everyone wears them out in public. Likewise the central government strongly recommended that people not take tour buses to go sightseeing or go out drinking in the evening and people stopped doing those things and it strongly recommended teleworking and people did. By the end of March leisure travel and business travel other than commuting had basically stopped and commuting levels were way way down (see teleworking). I suspect that basic hygiene did more than the wearing of masks, in part because so many mask wearers wear them wrong. The one thing that really stood out as a difference to other countries is that just about every store had (and still has) a bottle of cleanser and just about everyone gets a squirt to wipe their hands as they enter and often also as they leave.

I don’t think it was a regulation, but everyone was made aware of the dangers of the virus getting into care homes and in places where there have been lots of cases (e.g. Tokyo area) it seems care homes have almost totally isolated themselves. A lot of decisions were made at the local level, which meant that schools in the countryside have mostly stayed open while those in urban areas shut for a while and so on. In addition most cities (especially Tokyo) went beyond the central government mandates and required that bars and restaurants shut for a while before and after the mandatory shutdown period. I’ve seen statements that Japan did not impose a lockdown, which is technically true as there was no official regulation to that effect. But during the month from mid-April to mid-May despite no national or even local rules, many customer-facing businesses closed their doors, restaurants went to take-out only and so on.

Overall I’d say the big thing that Japan has done is put the virus front and center on the news and explained where the infected cases are and how they spread. Then they’ve allowed people to figure out what are sensible precautions and people have generally done so. It probably helps that Japan has a big “shame culture” and being found to be the infected (or worse the source of others being infected) would be a huge shame so people have acted very conservatively even though they weren’t required to.

A couple of other points. Some doctor friends of ours noted that the result of the wuhan coronavirus prevention activities was that Japan had an extremely mild flu season this year. In fact AIUI, and I don’t have a link, it was something I heard on TV (and possibly misheard), overall deaths and hospitalizations from infectious diseases of all sorts are massively down this year.

Daily cases in Japan from https://covid19japan.com/

As with other countries, there is a significant second wave occurring in Japan now. It is heavily concentrated in the Greater Tokyo area (Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba, Saitama) with other major urban areas (Osaka, Fukuoka, Nagoya) also seeing rises. A lot of the cases seem to be tied to specific super-spreader events such as theater performances. Outside of the big cities the numbers are miniscule and those that are found to be infected have nearly always either caught it directly from a trip to Tokyo (as in the case of an unfortunate student near where I live) or from family members who did. In the past there was some griping that Japan wasn’t testing very many people, I don’t know what’s going on in Tokyo (I don’t live there or watch the Tokyo local news) but here in Western Japan people who could have been in contact with an infected person are tested at a rate of hundreds a day if need be.

Total cases in Japan from https://covid19japan.com/

The death rate is still low. The news last night reported the 1001th* virus-related death, and that’s 150 over the last two months since the Prime Minister made the official “it’s over” announcement, and no spike corresponding to the spike in positive tests, it’s been 0-3 a day pretty consistently for the last couple of months.

*Note that as of writing, worldometers and other statistics sites report lower total deaths – 985 and 988 respectively. I cannot easily account for the difference but it is, in any case, a tiny amount given the total population of Japan