With a relatively high number of doctors and nurses compared with other Asia-Pacific countries, Japan has a greater capacity to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said Friday.
There are about 12 nurses and 2.5 doctors for every 1,000 people in Japan, according to data in the report. Low-income countries, such as Papua New Guinea and Cambodia, have fewer doctors and nurses and therefore, in principle, less capacity to respond to health care challenges, officials from the OECD and the World Health Organization wrote in the biennial report, titled “Health at a Glance: Asia/Pacific 2020.”
While many health systems in the region lack critical intensive care unit beds and critical care capacity, more than 10 beds for every 1,000 people are available in Japan, South Korea and North Korea, whereas the stock of beds is fewer than one per 1,000 in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Cambodia and India.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is the most serious global threat to public health in a century,” the report said, adding that it had inflicted disproportionate suffering on the most vulnerable populations, with existing gaps in care and socioeconomic backgrounds leaving many exposed to the disease.
The report also said that containment and mitigation policies were systematically less stringent in Japan, Brunei and Cambodia than the global average, though stringent containment and mitigation policies were employed across much of Asia-Pacific.
Japan has also rolled out substantial fiscal measures in the health sector in response to the novel coronavirus.
The central government’s budgetary commitments to health system responses to COVID-19 amounted to nearly 0.9% of gross domestic product in Japan, placing the nation third among the Asia and Pacific countries and territories, after Hong Kong and Mongolia. That compared with around 0.01% in Myanmar and Papua New Guinea, according to the report.
Overall, by early October, the cumulative total of cases in the region had reached over 8.3 million — a quarter of total cases worldwide, with India posting daily new cases of around 80,000 at that time, making it the worst-hit country by the pandemic.
Adjusting for population, Singapore reported the highest number of total cases per capita, totaling over 10,000 cases per 1 million people up to Oct. 5.
Both India and the city of Wuhan in China had reported 5,000 cases or more per 1 million people. That contrasted with 678 cases in Japan. Meanwhile, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam reported fewer than 18 cases per 1 million people.
The report, which analyzed 27 countries and territories in the Asia-Pacific region, also noted Japan’s two-pronged approach in its government’s responses to COVID-19 — namely cluster-based contract tracing and the development of the easy-to-grasp “three C’s” for communicating risk and modifying citizen behavior. The phrase refers to closed spaces with poor ventilation, crowds and close-contact settings — situations that creates a higher risk of exposure to the virus.
“Political leaders and experts joined efforts to repeat this simple message to reduce the social contacts, to mitigate the spread of the epidemic,” it said.
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