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Japan’s fear of the virus protects against the flu

DConcern about the corona virus is growing in Japan. At the weekend, the country reported further infections and a third death. Around 840 people, including more than 690 of the cruise ship Diamond Princess, have already been identified as virus carriers. Even in Germany, regardless of the congestion around the ship, the number of cases increases and was recently around 150. From Hokkaido in the north to Okinawa in the south, 16 of the 47 prefectures have cases of infection, and the trend is rising.

Patrick Welter

Patrick Welter

Correspondent for business and politics in Japan based in Tokyo.

In the evening news, the virus outbreak has been the largest broadcasting station for days. Respirators and hand disinfectants are sold out. On the trains and streets of the capital, the number of Japanese who want to protect themselves from infection with the masks is increasing. But the mask ratio is not yet greater than in a normal winter. The government is constantly drumming that people should protect themselves and their environment.

The restlessness and fear of the dangerous corona virus may have a surprisingly positive side effect. Japan reported an unusually low number of normal flu infections in the first few weeks of the year. There were around 45,000 flu cases in the first week of February. That is around 60 percent less than a year ago. Far fewer schools had to close temporarily due to an outbreak of the flu. The average number of flu cases in 5000 hospitals recorded in the first weeks of the year was sometimes lower than it had been in ten years. Government officials believe that improved household hygiene out of fear of the coronavirus has curbed the spread of regular flu viruses.

So far, however, the statistics have not given final proof. One difficulty in comparing with previous years is that the flu season in Japan started earlier than normal this year. According to some experts, this could be due to the fact that the many visitors had brought flu viruses unknown to the Japanese into the country during the Rugby World Cup.


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