Political crisis management of the novel coronavirus：proposals by a former health minister who tackled the novel influenza in 2009（1）
In 2009, I, as the health minister, acted as the leader in Japan's fight against the novel influenza, and our country won that fight without suffering significant damage. Based on Japan's experience at that time, I will mention points of reference useful for the fight that the world is now engaged in against the novel coronavirus. These points represent knowhow (guidelines) for crisis management by political leaders.
First, I would like to emphasize the importance of international cooperation. In light of the experience of fighting against SARS, which became endemic in 2002, Japan, China and South Korea have conducted various desktop exercises on the assumption that another SARS-like threat will emerge again. In November 2008, the health ministers of Japan, China and South Korea held a meeting in Beijing and agreed on cooperation based on the results of those working-level exercises (simulations).
As a result, these three countries achieved significant results in the fight against the novel influenza (formally known as Pandemic 2009H1N1) that struck the world in the following year. During the current crisis as well, close cooperation between Japan and China in particular has been very successful. Maintaining friendly relationships with neighboring countries is important from the viewpoint of preventing the spread of infectious diseases as well.
The second point is the importance of information disclosure. As I have emphasized to the Chinese government, valuable information on the specifics of patients’ symptoms in China and other relevant matters has been disseminated worldwide through the WHO and has been useful for countries around the world to take containment measures. When fighting against an unknown virus, people can become trapped in fear over the specter of an invisible enemy. Therefore, information on symptoms such as fever, cough, and runny nose is useful. The more such information is collected from around the world and the more widely disclosed and shared it is across countries, the faster new drugs and treatments will be developed.