Japan tries a new tactic as virus surges: public shaming

seattletimes.com -- Aug 04
As Japan strains to control its galloping coronavirus outbreak, and to keep an Olympic bubble from bursting in the final days of the Games, the government is trying a new tactic: public shaming.

On Monday, Japan’s health ministry released the names of three people who broke COVID-19 rules after returning from overseas. An official statement said that the three people — two Japanese nationals in their 20s who returned from South Korea, and a third who returned from Hawaii — had clearly acted to avoid contact with the authorities.

All tested negative for the virus at the airport but subsequently failed to report their health condition and did not respond to location-monitoring apps or video calls from health authorities, as required under Japan’s COVID-19 protocols.

The Japanese government had said in May that about 100 people a day were flouting the border control rules and signaled that it would soon begin to disclose the names of violators.

Japanese authorities are struggling to adapt their COVID-19 response as caseloads surge to their highest levels of the pandemic and vaccinations continue to lag behind other wealthy nations — and as many members of the Japanese public appear to have tired of the on-and-off emergency measures the government has imposed in Tokyo and other cities since early 2020.

Even as infections rose during an earlier wave this year, and as more infectious variants spread, Japan’s government failed to speed up its vaccination campaign. It has maintained that hosting the Olympics inside a tightly controlled bubble — few spectators, no contact between athletes and the public — did not risk worsening the outbreak.

Although there have been relatively few infections inside the Games — about 300, as of Tuesday — some Japanese people say that seeing the Olympics held in Tokyo has encouraged them to relax against the virus.

Yet the outbreak has gotten worse. On Tuesday, officials said they had recorded more than 8,300 daily cases nationwide, a slight dip from the weekend’s records of more than 10,000. Tokyo reported 3,709 cases, also slightly lower than previous days.

- seattletimes.com