As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads and the numbers of infected and deaths skyrocket in various locations around the world, an ongoing puzzle has been the comparatively slow rise of those numbers in Japan. (Although as of this writing, the numbers here have begun to climb in a concerning way.)

One key reason for the low number of infections recorded is that Japan has imposed strict criteria to be eligible for testing, focusing on giving tests only to people who have had sustained fevers for more than four days combined with overseas travel, close contact with an infected person or lung symptoms severe enough to warrant hospitalization. The goal of this approach has not been to identify all infected people, but rather to focus resources on those most in need of treatment and to trace clusters of infection.

It has also been reported that Japanese physicians have been using the country’s ample supply of CT scanners to identify the pneumonia that is a common result of the new coronavirus, which is then treated but often without a test for COVID-19 being done. Thus some people being treated for what is likely COVID-19 won’t be counted as confirmed cases in the statistics.