How has the Novel Coronavirus changed the way Japanese companies work?   Vol. 4 There is no stopping us

August 21, 2020 [No.78-2020]

Maita Tatsunobu,
CEO of HR Business Partner Inc.,
Professor of Globis Graduate School of Management


How has the Novel Coronavirus changed the way Japanese companies work?
Vol.4 There is no stopping us 

As the state of emergency was lifted on 25th May, everyone thought the situation was now over. Although the number of those testing positive did not reduce to zero, it looked well under control – under one hundred. But this did not continue even for a month. As everyone started moving, going out, and gathering again, the number started to surge ominously. And this time, the numbers were far greater than before. In the first wave, the largest daily count of those testing positive was 708 (on 10th April), but in this second wave, the most recent count was 1,595 (on 7th August) by 8th August. It is quite probable we will have more. 

In fact, we knew where the second wave was occurring. Night spots, especially in Tokyo, became hot spots of infection. And young people in their 20s and 30s were the majority of the infected.  Some were nightlife workers such as hosts and hostesses, others were students or company colleagues who attended parties. As those young people were infected, their family members and other colleagues became infected, and the pandemic spread again. But unlike with the first wave, there has been no drastic regulation over people’s activities for now. On the contrary, the Japanese government is promoting a “Go to travel campaign”, subsidizing people’s travelling expenses. 

During the first wave, i.e., the second quarter of 2020, Japan's economy shrank at an annualized pace of 27.8% from the preceding quarter. Catastrophe has been barely avoided due to various kinds of financial support being provided by the government, but such a policy is not sustainable. Now, there seems to be great confusion among policymakers and decision-makers, in government and business, whether they should prioritize infection control or economic recovery. 

Today, top of the agenda does not seem to be “how to end Corona”, but “how to live with Corona”. Probably no one has found a perfect answer to this yet, but some people in Japan are expressing their opinions and suggestions. A sociologist has put it this way: “In Japan, the death toll from COVID-19 is just less than ten a day, with a cumulative total of just over 1,500. The infection may be said to be “under control”, and it is controlled rather well. Accepting the reality that we have no chance to end the infection for another year or so, stopping all economic and social activities of the nation may not be a practical solution. Because then we all will die economically and socially before we all die from the virus.” 

She may be right. All through a million years of human history, we have lived with various viruses. We have never literally terminated any virus except smallpox. It is surely important we make every effort to develop a vaccine and medicines that will cure it, but it may be as important that we learn to “properly” – i.e., not too much – fear the disease. As a matter of fact, there are a great many people who have been infected but not suffered from it physically. At the same time, however, a great many people are suffering mentally, economically, and socially. 

I know of a mother who lived in a peaceful part of the countryside with a young son in his 20s. He travelled to Tokyo, enjoyed the nightlife, and came back with the virus – he was infected. The people in the surrounding area accused him and socially isolated the family. The mother, probably feeling responsible and guilty, killed herself. It is sad that people die from the disease, but it is even sadder that they die from such a thing as. 

COVID-19 is fearful, and we must fight against the fear. We must realize we have two kinds of fear about COVID-19: One is fear about the pain the virus may bring to us, and the other is fear about “the unknown”. We cannot help depending on medical experts to resolve the fear about the pain, but we should depend on ourselves to resolve the fear about the unknown. We, human beings, have always lived with something unknown. To live with something unknown, it is important that we always be careful of it, but at the same time, we should not fear it too much. Our life with COVID-19 will never be just the same as before, but still our life must go on. Fear properly. Move forward. 

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