Coronavirus: Government requests 10 more days of event cancellations

The Japanese government has taken various measures against the new coronavirus, including requesting school closures and event cancellations. An expert panel will issue an assessment on around March 19th on how effective these measures have been. For now, the government says it plans to keep them in place for another 10 days at least.

Government keeps measures in place

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Tuesday that it is crucial that the measures be kept in place until the panel announces its assessment. He added that people should avoid crowded or poorly ventilated spaces.

The government panel convened on Monday, a day before Abe's announcement.

It said Japan has been successful at controlling the outbreak to an extent. It said the country has not seen an "explosive" rise in new infections but stressed the need for people to remain vigilant, as more cases are expected.

government panels
A government panel of experts met on Monday.

The panel said the fight against the coronavirus will continue for some time, as even if Japan does manage to contain the outbreak, it will remain vulnerable to a resurgence stemming from a case brought in from another country.

With this timeline in mind, the experts said it is vital to reduce the burden on the nation's healthcare system. Regional partnerships would help in this regard, along with more general efforts to boost health services.

Shigeru Omi, the panel's deputy chair and a former regional director of the World Health Organization, told NHK that more time was needed to assess the situation.

"By around March 19th, we will have a clearer picture as to what extent the measures have worked," he said. "We hope to better understand whether the epidemic is still spreading or if it's heading toward an end."

Shigeru Omi
Shigeru Omi, deputy chair of the government panel.

How to prevent infection

The panel said that mass infections have been confirmed among crowds gathered in spaces with poor ventilation. The experts said citizens should avoid such areas for the time being.

One member of the panel said he does not believes the coronavirus will disappear once the weather gets warmer, the way the common flu does. If this is the case, he added that measures to combat the virus may need to remain in place for more than a year.