Japan has found itself in a unique predicament. While governments around the world have responded to the spread of the new coronavirus by instituting draconian measures to curtail social interaction, Japan’s central and local governments have no authority to implement or enforce such measures. Instead, they’re relying on something else to convince citizens to socially distance: persuasion.

The initial results of this approach have not not been encouraging.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has set a target of reducing social interactions by 80 percent. However, recent data suggests that, at least in Tokyo, foot traffic and public transport ridership have dropped by only about half of that. This raises the question: What if this approach isn’t enough to suppress the virus’s spread?