Responses to COVID-19: Considering the Evidence
-How should we prepare for a second wave?-

The spread of the COVID-19 has had a tremendous impact on the global economy and societies throughout the world. Why is the coronavirus causing such severe problems? Why has Japan suffered less severely from the virus than other countries? Is there a realistic possibility of the development of a vaccine? Discussions based on sound medical findings will be essential to preparing for a second wave and beyond. NIRA therefore invited Dr. Tai Takahashi, an expert on public health and the Japanese medical system, and Dr. Mitsuyoshi Urashima, an epidemiologist, to discuss the relevant issues. Dr. Yuri Okina, one of NIRA’s Executive Vice Presidents, acted as moderator.

The discussion ranged over the following topics: (1) The mechanism of the “cytokine storm” (a “runaway immune system”) that causes COVID-19 to become severe in certain patients; (2) The progress of a range of research, including into the question as to whether the relatively low mortality rate from the infection in Japan is due to an innate immunity peculiar to the Japanese or potentially to BCG vaccinations ; (3) Evaluation of the current status of development of drugs and vaccines; and (4) The importance of exit strategies tailored to risk factors such as age.

In order to prepare for the future, it will be important to verify the appropriateness of the response to the first wave of infections based on up-to-date findings, to establish a system that makes it possible to grasp the status of infections at the national level and in real time, and to establish a system enabling hospital beds to be assigned separately to patients with mild symptoms and patients with severe symptoms in each of the nation’s regions. It will also be necessary to analyze data concerning infections in Japan and make the results of this research known overseas.

Mitsuyoshi Urashima
Professor, the Jikei University School of Me
Tai Takahashi
Professor, the Graduate School of International University of Health and Welfare
Executive Vice President, the Nippon Institute for Research Advancement / Chairperson, the Japan Research Institute *Moderator