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For all the talk about preventing the spread of influenza, Japan has not learned the lessons of SARS. The other day, after taking a train, I went to the washroom in a JR station. As always, there was no soap. Telling people to wash their hands won’t do much good until soap is in common use.

Instead of just talking about it, the government should act quickly to ensure that soap and sanitary towels are provided in all public washrooms. Where common sense is lacking, legislation is required.

It is an unfortunate fact of life in Japan that one cannot rely on the government for common sense and leadership. For a country that only discovered the dangers of dioxin in the late 1990s and the dangers of asbestos in recent years, it is not surprising that Japan still has not fully realized the benefits of washing with soap. Perhaps after a few million die, things will change.

patrick l. halliwell

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