Saturday, May 23, 2009

First victim of H1N1 flu: Japanese no sense of crisis management!

Who's behind the mask?

The first victim of H1N1 virus is Japanese government crisis management fickleness! Take for instance the Japanese makers of surgical masks who are said that they can't fight. Fight what? Not the virus. What they can't fight is demand for surgical masks. People are not protected. How could Japan government reach such inability in facing crisis, apparently unable to keep up with the number 1 obligation? Guarantee the security to the inhabitants after the spread of the A/H1N1 flu virus.

In the world of Kitty Chan --not so nice world indeed under pandemic fear-- people nowadays watch each other with suspicion, cough and sneeze in your face or refuse to give you the way, especially if you are foreigner. Authorities now try to lower the fear and the effect of the virus. But people do not buy it. What they want to buy are masks. Problem, there aren't any, and if there are, it is just a few, it is not for everyone today. Same like medicines to fight H1N1: 2/3 of Japanese can't get the shot and the pills. Terrible scenario with politicians and so called crisis management experts looking like the Monsters of Tottori prefecture born Mizuki Shigeru.

Sculpture of Gegege no Kitaro cartoon character: Nezumi Otoko (Rat man)

I was wondering about it when walking in various prefectures of Japan these last days, especially when I returned last night to Tokyo. One eye on the WHO N1H1 "index" the other on Tokyoites at airports, stations and streets. I reported about it on RTL. (Click this post title to access RTL and listen to my report)

In Tokyo, I saw that 1 third of people did actually wear a mask. Is it because the other 2 third feel uncomfortable in wearing a mask or is it because they could not find any? Might be both. But there are other reasons too. When I asked in a shop to buy a mask box, I was asked to buy one mask only not a box, while at the same time, the WHO recommends to the people to change their mask at least once a day until it gets wet or dirty. I was therefore surprised to see that 100.000 masks were acquired by the Yokohama 150th anniversary committee as media reported. Yokohama selfishly kept these masks for the visitors of the event while the rest of the population cannot find any mask to put on their nose.

Guarantee safety to the people is priority no1
First priority of a democratic government is to guarantee safety to the people. Authentically, I thought that J government was not really capable of doing something right in this pandemic fear, and act as a responsible entity and offer protection and security to its people. From the beginning, they should have brought a packet of masks** to each house, especially to isolated elder people and schools. Use your Postmen and your Koban officers, use social workers, "freeters", temp workers, and volunteers not only for the Olympics!

But Prime ministe Aso's governement did not address the issue. He did the opposite yesterday. "Japan has eased quarantine and immigration measures aimed at controlling the spread of swine flu, saying the virus was not as virulent as first feared. Japan new policy aimed at minimizing the impact of the state's flu response on businesses and daily life". Here we are, don't touch my economy. Quotes:

"According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, the policy change puts more emphasis on preventing further infections and on helping people with chronic diseases who have the flu get treatment. "This of course doesn't mean that it's OK for healthy people to be infected. But it's good to prioritize people at higher risk," said Nobuhiko Okabe, director of the Infectious Disease Surveillance Center at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases. Okabe also said that people with chronic diseases should be aware that keeping their health problems under control will help mitigate the impact of contracting swine flu," according to press reports.

Some low awareness policy makers such as Osaka Governor Toru Hashimoto said that he really appreciated the new policy "because it fits the reality facing local governments". Osaka... always so close to its money and own cash-box.

Preventive measures
The World Health Organization director-general, a former Hong Kong health official, Margaret Chan, surely knows what she is talking about, with the SARS factor experience, and she is presently under heavy international political pressure, but she said that people must show responsibility and wear mask, and, for those who aren't infected, respect other preventive measures such as refraining from touching the mouth and nose, frequently washing hands and avoiding crowded settings.

Do not check Tokyo: It's too big
Worst case indeed as WHO said: Tokyo 36 millions people. To the point that some experts speculate that national authorities might very well have chosen to test less important cities and population such as Kobe or Osaka, and, reveal minimal cases of contracted diseases in the "Grand Tokyo" metropolis, where a panic would have frightening consequences and paralyze the government. If not this one with A H1N1, plan and imagine tomorrow if water is polluted or chemically or biologically poisoned?

Laws to face emergency
Would not be a bad idea to move the capital to the countryside. But easier is to change policy. What is needed are laws to face emergency and implement accurate policies. This is exactly what the crisis management security adviser to Tokyo Governor Ishihara Shintaro, Mr. Shikata Toshiyuki, told me when we met at Tokyo Metropolitan Governement at a very fortunate Foreign Press Center press tour held during a drill about influenza pandemic at Tokyo city-hall on November 20th 2008:

"Hostages crisis, bio-terror, avian flu: Tokyo's apocalypse, now!" No special forces able to interfere, no law to allow fast action from the authorities, not enough medical facilities, vaccines, security forces, not enough doctors, commandos, transport, no water, no food, no shelters. If a major pandemic: Tokyo residents will die one after the other.

Click here to read the interview of Tokyo Security adviser to Governor Ishihara, the ex-GSDF Lieutenant-General Shikata Toshiyuki

**NB: "Seijo Corp., which operates 276 drug stores mainly in Tokyo and the surrounding region, said mask sales for this month so far are 10 times the company's usual May figures" according to wire services.

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