Covid-19 in Japan: Where are the experts?

America has Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, who provide scientific information at White House press conferences.

Germany has Prof. Dr. Lothar Wieler of the Robert Koch Institute, who speaks at biweekly press briefings. Dr Christian Drosten, chief virologist at the Charité hospital in Berlin, has provided frequent commentary to the public.

Where are these experts in Japan? The briefings I have watched in Japan primarily involved Prime Minister Abe Shinzo and Governer of Tokyo Koike Yuriko.

Yes, individuals scientists have been interviewed by the “wide shows” entertainment programs, but why are they not given a prominent official role in shaping public responses to the epidemic? Yes, the declaration of emergency is supposed to be based on the discussions of a circle of experts, but we don’t directly hear from them. It’s only the government that consults with them.

The impression this creates is that the decisions being made are ultimately driven by political and economic considerations, which take priority over any medical interpretation of the situation.

As Son Masayoshi of Softbank pointed out in a recent tweet, it is strange that in Japan Covid-19 policy is spearheaded by the Minister of Economic Revitalization instead of a health expert such as Dr. Fauci in the US. That tells you all you need to know about the priorities of the Abe government.

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