Reader Mail

Lack of testing real reason behind low COVID-19 numbers

There now seems to be a peer pressure shaped primarily by mainstream Japanese media and organizations with a strong political influence to conclude, without providing any convincing data to tell us what’s actually happening, that the coronavirus outbreak in Japan has already peaked and it’s about time to lift the state of emergency in most parts of the country.

A friend of mine’s colleague who lives in the town where I live had been suffering high fever and other cold symptoms combined with the loss of his sense of taste for multiple days went to a local hospital designated as infectious disease treatment institution. He consulted his doctor, an otolaryngologist from the hospital, and requested coronavirus testing. Surprisingly, his request was turned down. The doctor told him that his symptoms were just being caused by allergic rhinitis. So, he kept going to work because he didn’t want to be blamed by his boss and coworkers for missing works just for a mere nasal inflammation; a classic way of thinking among Japanese prioritizing work over anything else.

It’s not once or twice that I hear this kind of story of local clinics, hospitals or health care officials turning away suspected patients or turning down requests for getting tested. This is a typical case that explains why the number of testing is so small in the prefecture where I live. In reality, it is not the lack of testing capacity, but the lack of will to test every suspected case that could well explain the relatively small numbers of confirmed cases in the prefecture. The same thing could be said for Japan as a whole. And, if that’s the case, increasing the testing capacity or introducing other types of testing than PCR would not solve the problem.

Such a situation could be more or less the same in other provincial prefectures where peer pressure has been built not to cause meiwaku (trouble) to the local medical institutions who are said to have an influence on local politics and the local economy. An inconvenient reality like this should also be reported by the media and taken into account by officials when considering when to lift the emergency.

Josh Nakayama
Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture

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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