Top official affirms Japan SARS free
Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE
"Top official affirms Japan SARS free"
(By AP) Borneo Bulletin
"Japan SARS-Free Thanks to Luck...And Hand-Washing"
(By George Nishiyama) Reuters
SARS is still considered by most of Japanese people as "fire on the other side of the river", because there has been no report of the disease to reach the shores of this country. But it is possible that people would not be startled if a small number of cases were to be found in Japan in the near future, as many understand well that the current SARS free environment is maintained partly by luck.
It does not mean, of course, that people have been simply ignoring the incident initiated next door, in China. There were efforts to minimize contamination by both authorities and private business sector that have been quick in responding.
It should be admitted that Japan's bureaucrats, often criticized for their indetermination and lazy responses when faced with new realities, have this time reacted fairly reasonably in terms of timing, which is the most crucial factor in coping with events such as this. Foreign Ministry sent out warnings to those residing in the supposedly contaminated areas, Justice Ministry propped up security measures at immigration, and Heath Ministry lined up hospitals and other facilities across the country with the support of regional governments to sort out any suspicious case of the disease.
Business sector was brisk in responding, too. There had been quite a number of Japanese expatriates and their families stationed in the region, but their employers quickly retrieved the families and then the businessmen themselves, to temporarily take shelter at home. Incidentally, encouraged by the mild spring weather, this returning flock of people has induced many ad-hoc get-togethers and re-unions of colleagues and friends at home held, which may have reinforced people's appreciation for peace.
Having said that, people are still somewhat skeptical as to the announcements made by the Health Ministry, as it has awful track record through the history in coping with diseases and citizens who suffered them. People sincerely hope that this time, the Ministry is not hiding something, for the benefit of themselves as well as for the Ministry, which is still on its way to recoup people's trust.
What has happened in China should provide a good lesson, where senior officials trying to cover up the whole incident resulted in themselves being sacked as a retribution for boosting casualties. SARS is beginning to affect global economy where China is obviously being hit the hardest and the effect is spreading to other countries including Japan. Governments should bear firmly in mind that negligence by those officers in responsible positions could cause stupendous loss of people's lives, economic values, and political confidence.