Japan tamed COVID-19 without lockdowns. Here’s how

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By following the science developed by world-renowned experts, Japan has been able to avoid the worst effects of the pandemic without mandatory lockdowns. How have we done it? High-quality medical care—accessible to all thanks to universal health insurance—no doubt helps. Social and cultural factors might be at play, too.

However, the core insight that has helped us in our fight against Covid-19 is the notion of transmission clusters. Early on, our health experts noticed that the disease spreads in a peculiar way… Most who are infected by it—about 80%—never pass it on to anyone else. The bulk of infections can be traced to a small number of “super-spreading events.”

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First, Japanese health experts recommended a special kind of contact tracing called “retrospective tracing.”… By mapping them and cross-referencing them with those of other infected people, tracers can identify common sources of infection—the people and places behind an infection cluster.

Second, we developed a guide for avoiding high-risk situations. We call them the “three Cs”: closed spaces, crowded places and close-contact settings, especially those involving loud talking. These settings all pose a major risk of infection. Today, thanks to extensive public-awareness campaigns, even children in Japan know to avoid them.

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