The governor of Hokkaido prefecture declared a State of Emergency (SoE) on Friday, February 28, to limit the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). The prefecture has confirmed the highest number of cases of any prefecture in Japan, with at least 67 individuals testing positive for the virus as of Friday. The SoE is due in place until Thursday, March 19. Hokkaido Governor Naomichi Suzuki urged individuals to remain indoors on Saturday, February 29, through Sunday, March 1; local media outlets report on Saturday that public activity in Sapporo is minimal and a number of businesses are closed.
On Thursday, February 27, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe requested all elementary, middle, and high schools to close from Monday, March 2, through early April to prevent further spread of the virus. The government has also asked for sporting events and other large gathering to be delayed for at least two weeks.
The Ministry of Health have confirmed 230 cases of COVID-19 nationwide as of Friday, including 22 asymptomatic individuals, as well as five fatalities.
Further international spread of COVID-19 is expected in the coming days and 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 February 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the risk of spread and the risk of impact of the virus is "'very high' at global level."
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.
Individuals in Hokkaido prefecture, and in Japan more generally, are advised to monitor the situation, anticipate business and transportation disruptions, and adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments.
To reduce the general risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water
- When coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue - throw tissue away immediately and wash hands
- If you have fever, cough, and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your health care provider
- Adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments
In the case that symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness emerge either during or after travel, travelers are encouraged to seek medical attention and share their travel history with their health care provider. Travelers returning from China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran, who develop symptoms of pneumonia are advised to call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to avoid potential spread of the disease.