A professor of public health in Japan has pointed out the need for proactive steps to prepare for an outbreak of the new coronavirus in Japan (“Closing of borders will only ‘delay inevitable'” in the Feb. 5 edition. The article notes that “the government faces the urgent task of preparing health care providers for a large number of patients.”

In related news, the luxury cruise ship Diamond Princess was quarantined off Daikoku Pier in Yokohama.

This and other cruise ships that are unable to operate in the region because of travel bans could become a major resource for screening, triage and care of possible or confirmed coronavirus cases. They could be leased from the owners for as long as the crisis lasts, with funds provided to maintain minimum crews to run the ships, and for installation of medical equipment.

This would provide an almost immediate solution to the need for isolated bed spaces, allowing the government to focus on the provision of all the medical equipment and staff needed.

After such use, it might take less than a month for the ships to be cleaned and made safe for commercial use again. The owners would lose less money, the cost to the public would be much less than erecting new facilities from scratch, and the facilities could be moved to where they are most needed with relative ease, as Japan has an abundance of ports. If multiple ships can be found for this purpose, they could be used in rotation, to allow for cleaning between periods of use, so that new groups of patients or suspected cases are in no danger of infection from previous groups using the facilities.


The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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