RASHID AL-ARMELI WRITES—Wuhan, the capital of the province of Hubei in China, has definitely attracted close attention worldwide for a reason other than the level of its industrial development, its historical significance, or cultural appeal. The new coronavirus, which is thought to be initially transmitted from wild animals sold at local markets, has quickly made Wuhan a hot news topic. The number of infected people is rapidly increasing, which forces other countries to panic and organize chartered flights in order to remove its citizens from Hubei Province.
Japan does not want another measles-type blowup on its hands. This week, the Japanese government sent its first charter plane to pick 206 out of 650 Japanese citizens willing to leave Wuhan. Before departing, everyone on board completed health paperwork and had their temperatures taken. After arriving in Japan, passengers were sent to one of Tokyo’s infectious diseases hospitals, then put on a chartered bus to be quarantined for 14 days. People living far from Tokyo were asked to stay in local hotels during this same period.
At present, there have been seven cases of the coronavirus in Japan. Two recent ones involve a 60- year-old man working as a tour bus driver and a man from Nara who was hospitalized after developing pneumonia.
On January 28, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe classified the new coronavirus strain as an infectious one, thus triggering existing laws that legalized forced hospitalization starting February 7– as soon as a person shows certain symptoms. This move has in turn triggered public criticism, as citizens fear that the 10-day period is too long. Concern is further fueled by the fact that there is still too little information about the coronavirus. The proactive measures taken so far are the evacuation of Wuhan and its suburbs, limiting all flights to and from China, as well as forced hospitalization.
What more must be done? First, we must learn more about the virus, quickly, and act accordingly, across the globe.