The health ministry will introduce a system for public health centers to report coronavirus cases online instead of by hand-written faxes, phone or email — drawing praise from some but scorn from others wondering why it took so long.
Despite Japan’s high-tech image, many businesses and government offices still rely on fax machines, generating documents on which officials can stamp their approval with hanko (traditional seals), leaving a paper trail.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has been promoting working from home to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, has told Cabinet ministers to overhaul regulations and identify burdensome procedures with a view to scrapping or simplifying them.
The health ministry said on Thursday it would launch the online reporting system from May 10, and take it nationwide from May 17, to reduce the burden on health centers struggling to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
Over 14,000 confirmed infections and 455 deaths have been recorded nationwide so far, according to NHK.
Abe is expected to extend the nationwide state of emergency set to end Wednesday by about a month to fight the deadly virus.
A health ministry official said the new reporting system would benefit public health centers and boost the efficiency of its data collection, including for new infections, hospitalizations and severe cases.
Lawmaker Masaaki Taira of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party applauded the ministry’s decision.
“The IT environment for public health had taken a big step forward,” Taira said on Twitter.
Others were less impressed.
“Sorry, but I can’t say ‘well done’. What were you doing until now?” said Twitter user mamazon.
“There seem to be lots of other handwritten faxes. I’m waiting until they are all abolished.”
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