Data | Japan's limited testing strategy for coronavirus does not yield in the long run

After an initial low, a recent surge in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Japan suggests that their strategy has not paid off

Updated - December 03, 2021 06:38 am IST

Published - April 07, 2020 12:21 am IST

A woman walks past an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 index at a securities firm in Tokyo. File

A woman walks past an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 index at a securities firm in Tokyo. File

Japan is among the few countries that went against the grain in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Initially, the number of cases was low, largely due to the identification of disease clusters and despite the absence of a lockdown or intensive testing. Lately a surge in cases has led to calls for a state of emergency .

Also read: State-wise tracker for coronavirus cases, deaths and testing rates

Data suggest that Japan’s strategy did not work. India has followed a similar course , but has a lockdown in place .

Reversal of fortunes

The graph shows the seven-day rolling average of COVID-19 cases since the 100th case in select countries. Japan’s curve not only flattened, but also started to dip after the 24th day. But since then its fortunes have reversed.

Dipping and surging

image/svg+xml810121416182022242628303234363840424446481251020501002005001,0002,0005,00010,00020,000Sum of Moving average20,0005,0001,00020050102812162024283236404448U.S. had a late and partial lockdown,but a higher testing rateOn the 45th dayJapan is inchingcloser to China's avg.India's case averageis middlingU.S.ChinaDays since 100th caseAvg.casesBelgiumJapanS. KoreaIndia

(If graphs don't appear in full, click here )

Belgium had an early lockdown and a higher testing rate. India had an early, stringent lockdown but a very low testing rate.

On the other hand, South Korea did not have a lockdown, but tested at higher rates. Japan did not have a lockdown either, nor were its testing rates high.

Testing times

The graph shows the no. of COVID-19 tests per million population in select countries and Indian States. Japan’s testing rates were lower initially and continued to be so, while other countries ramped up.

India’s testing rates were even lower than Japan.

Not testing enough

Business as usual

The chart shows phone traffic from workplaces in Japan since February 16. The graph shows no significant change, meaning, the Japanese continued to work from offices.

The chart uses anonymised location data from phones in Japan to show how visits and length of stay in workplaces changed compared to the zero line.

Undisturbed mobility

image/svg+xml+80%0-80%Feb. 16Mar. 8Mar. 29+40%-40%Sundays

Source: Johns Hopkins University and Google’s COVID-19 community mobility reports

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