Looking Ahead Through Japan

After the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Tokyo with tales seemingly spun from some sci-fi disaster movie, all eyes turned to Japan. Cruisers had boarded the vacation vessel in Yokohama on January 20 already knowing that there was something bad going on in China’s Wuhan. The big ship would head out anyway for a fourteen-day tour of Vietnam, Taiwan, and, yes, China.

Three days in, news reached the Diamond that the Communists had closed down the affected region. Worse, on February 2, the company operating the tour disclosed to the captain that one passenger who had disembarked in Hong Kong tested positive for this novel coronavirus. The crew and passengers were told they had to immediately turn around and head back toward Tokyo.

What followed was a nightmare. Since it was pretty much the only information the world had at the time about this disease, it played an outsized role in provoking often draconian responses. The numbers would end up projecting a situation beyond imagination, invoking the Spanish flu.

But those ended up being an unusual outlier, a case study only in what the most perfect conditions for the viral spread might unleash. It wasn’t representative, at all, for how the rest of the world would end up facing COVID-19. And it was nothing like what Japan would experience. 

While Tokyo would fall under suspicion for the Diamond Princess sitting in its harbor under quarantine, as well as its close links to China, the Japanese government didn’t panic and never did impose a country-wide lockdown. Prime Minister Abe would issue restrictions, of course, but only asking that the Japanese people heed guidelines along with a healthy dose of common sense.

In the middle of May, the Abe government began to roll back those recommended restrictions with most of Japan already stirring back to life. As the AP reported:

Under the emergency, people were asked to stay at home and non-essential businesses were requested to close or reduce operations, but there was no enforcement. Since May 14, when the measures were lifted in most of Japan, more people have been leaving their homes and stores have begun reopening.

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Disclosure: This material has been distributed for informational purposes only. It is the opinion of the author and should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation of any ...

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