●New cases in Kumamoto City
Three additional cases have been confirmed in Kumamoto since our last e-mail on Saturday morning. All three are located in Nishi-ku. One is a co-worker, and the other a family member of the first patient confirmed in Nishi-ku on Sunday evening (Kumamoto City, Case No. 10). They are not confimed to be connected to the cases arising from the onsen ‘Peaceful You You You’. (http://www.city.kumamoto.jp/hpkiji/pub/detail.aspx?c_id=5&id=26562)
This brings the total number of cases in Kumamoto to 14. Other cases in Kyushu are as follows; Fukuoka – 29, Oita – 29, Miyazaki – 3, Nagasaki – 2, Saga -1, and Kagoshima – 1.
●New travel warnings and restrictions from MOFAThis afternoon MOFA raised travel warning for 49 countries/territories to Level 3. The warning includes Australia, New Zealand, Canada, United States, United Kingdom, as well as all of Korea and Taiwan. (France and Sweden were raised to Level 3 previously). Please confirm the list of countries on the website: https://www.anzen.mofa.go.jp/covid19/info0330.htmlLevel 3, Do not travel (渡航は止めてください)Please do not travel to the specified countries or territories for any purpose.
Furthermore, MOFA is planning to place an entry ban on foreign nationals from these 49 countries and territories. Foreigners who have been to any of those countries and territories within 14 days of arriving in Japan will not be allowed entry to Japan. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20200331_24/
●What should and shouldn’t I be doing now?Some JETs have raised questions raised about the nature of the current public health recommendations in Japan. In addition to the basics such as hand washing, disinfecting, mask wearing, and staying at home when you feel ill, everyone has probably been hearing a lot about social or physical distancing from sources back home. In Japan, the analogous buzzword is “jishuku” (自粛) or self-restraint, which has some similarities, but is different. Here is an overview of the current recommendations in Japan:
① Events held indoors that are expected to be attended by people from outside the prefecture, or a large undetermined number of people (不特定多数, futokutei tasuu) from within the prefecture, should be cancelled. This reccomendation has been in place since February. (https://www.pref.kumamoto.jp/common/UploadFileOutput.ashx?c_id=4&id=3035&flid=222586)
② People should avoid crowded places. In particular, it is believed that there are certain types of places where group outbreaks (clusters) are highly likely to occur. These are closed spaces with poor ventilation in which many people are close together having conversations with one another at close distances. People are being asked to avoid any such locations where these conditions occur for the time being.
Public health officials currently believe that if all members of the public co-operate faithfully and follow these measures rigorously, then the rate of domestic transmission will fall enough to prevent a runaway increase in infections, without having to implement drastic measures such as lockdowns. However, officials have signalled that if the public does not comply with voluntary self-restraint, and cases continue to increase, then they may have no choice but to implement more drastic measures. A full outline of the policy is on the website for the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare here: https://www.mhlw.go.jp/stf/seisakunitsuite/bunya/0000164708_00001.html (some resources are also available in English here but are not updated as frequently: https://www.mhlw.go.jp/stf/seisakunitsuite/bunya/newpage_00032.html)
Currently there is no basis in Japanese law enabling the government to require people to stay at home or events to be cancelled, even if a state of emergency is declared. In the current legal framework, engaging in self-restraint from unnecessary and non-urgent outings is voluntary, unless the government drafts an entirely new law for that purpose, which makes it all the more important that the public cooperates with the measures.
For example, unnecessarily eating, drinking and conversing in groups in confined places such as izakaya are subject to the principle of “jishuku” self-restraint. Your Japanese counterparts should also be exercising “self-restraint”, and should be cancelling their nomikai accordingly. For example, your humble PAs will not be attending any farewell or welcome party for people leaving/joining the kencho divisions they work at this year. However, this “self-restraint” is voluntary, and you may see some of your Japanese counterparts choosing to eat and drink together despite the “self-restraint” request. However, please note that they are doing so against the current advice. We ask Kumamoto JETs to be aware of this advice and act accordingly.
If there are any further changes to public health policy we will do our best to explain them.
Lily & Bilal