Japan’s COVID-19 Response: What Went Wrong?

Despite naming pandemic management his top priority, Prime Minister Suga has seen cases explode under his watch
Part of the Japanese Foreign Policy Project

This article was originally published in the June 2021 issue of The Diplomat Magazine.

On May 24, the U.S. Department of State issued a Level Four “Do Not Travel” warning for Japan, urging U.S. citizens not to travel to Japan due to a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in the country. The warning — which came a month after President Joe Biden showed support for Tokyo hosting the Olympic games as planned in summer of 2021 during a summit meeting with Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide — is another indication that Japan’s response to COVID-19 has gone terribly wrong.

This is an unanticipated turn of events for Japan. When the United States and European countries were hitting the nadir of COVID-19 cases a year ago, Japan was quite successful in containing the spread of the virus. In fact, even with the recent spike in cases, Japan has been more successful in containing COVID-19 compared to other countries. As May 24, for example, Japan had reported around 5,700 infections per million people since the beginning of the pandemic — a far lower case count than many Western countries such as the U.S. and the U.K., which both stood at around 100,000 cases per million people.

Read the full article in the June 2021 issue of The Diplomat Magazine.

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