On Wednesday, March 25, Tokyo Governor Yurike Koike asked the city's residents to avoid going out for all but non-essential trips, and to avoid public spaces and restaurants in efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Japan's government has not put any binding lockdown or city-wide quarantine measures in place yet, though has advised Japanese nationals to avoid travel abroad.
The 2020 Olympics, originally set to take place in Tokyo, have been pushed back to 2021 due to concerns about the virus.
Hokkaido prefecture, until recently the epicenter of Japan's COVID-19 outbreak, repealed its state of emergency on Friday, March 20, after successfully containing the local outbreak, and is slated to re-open schools.
As of Thursday, March 26, 1307 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the country, with 45 associated fatalities and 310 recoveries, excluding cases and deaths from the Princess Diamond cruise ship. Further international spread of the virus is likely over the coming weeks.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the general risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.