In this episode, Christine Parthemore, the CEO of the Council on Strategic Risks, interviews Japanese experts about their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Christine has deep experience addressing issues ranging from the security implications of climate change to countering weapons of mass destruction, including in the U.S. Department of Defense, security think tanks, and academia. She is also Director of CSR’s Janne E. Nolan Center on Strategic Weapons and Manager of CSR’s Climate-Nuclear-Security Project, and was a founding Board Member of CSR.
In a recent blog post, Christine provides an overview of the episode. The discussion features Dr. Tomoya Saito, who is the director of the Department of Health Crisis Management at Japan’s National Institute of Public Health and has deep experience in emergency preparedness and response, health surveillance, and biosecurity; and Ambassador Nobuyasu Abe, who served as United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs and as a Commissioner of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, and who we are honored to have as a Senior Advisor at CSR.
They shared several factors involved in Japan’s response that appear to have contributed. Japan focused heavily on early detection. The country also worked early to understand clusters of COVID-19 and how focusing on them could help limit its transmission. We also discussed communications and transparency between the government and the public, including via Japan’s “Avoid the Three C’s” campaign to urge the public to avoid closed spaces, crowded places, and close contact. Straightforward steps like widespread wearing of masks have also been embraced in Japan.
Looking ahead, we also discussed the importance of creating pathogen early warning systems, and the danger of narratives that authoritarian regimes have handled COVID-19 best (evidence for which can be seen in democracies such as Japan being one of the world’s leading countries in containing the pandemic).